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Microsoft lawyers assisted Russian Govt. in raids against advocacy groups, opposition media, says New York Times report

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13 September 2010

Anti-Piracy Enforcement and NGOs

Author: Brad Smith, General Counsel, Microsoft

A story in yesterday’s New York Times...described instances in which authorities had used piracy charges concerning Microsoft software to confiscate computers and harass non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others engaged in public advocacy...[We] want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain...Our first step is clear-cut. We must accept responsibility and assume accountability for our anti-piracy work, including the good and the bad...We will retain an international law firm...to conduct an independent investigation...To prevent non-government organizations from falling victim to nefarious actions taken in the guise of anti-piracy enforcement, Microsoft will create a new unilateral software license for NGOs that will ensure they have free, legal copies of our products...[We're] creating in Russia a new NGO Legal Assistance Program focused specifically on helping NGOs document to the authorities that...they have legal software.

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13 September 2010

Human Rights First Urges Microsoft to Engage Civil Society, End its Role in Abusive Russian Enforcement Practices

Author: Human Rights First

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino is urging Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer to implement a series of changes to strengthen company efforts to protect fundamental rights. In a letter sent to Ballmer after a New York Times article exposed Russia's attempts to crack down on civil society groups with the help of Microsoft, Massimino urged the company to abandon such efforts and to develop relationships with Russian civil society activities who could identify and ensure a rapid response to future incidents.

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11 September 2010

Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

Author: Clifford J. Levy, New York Times

It was late one afternoon…when a squad of plainclothes police officers arrived at the headquarters of a prominent environmental group…The group, Baikal Environmental Wave, was organizing protests against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to reopen a paper factory that had polluted nearby Lake Baikal...Instead, the group fell victim to one of the authorities’ newest tactics for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers in recent years…As the ploy grows common, the authorities are receiving key assistance from an unexpected partner: Microsoft itself…After The New York Times presented its reporting to senior Microsoft officials, the company responded that it planned to tighten its oversight of its legal affairs in Russia.

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