Gorbachev to Gates: Show Software 'Pirate' Mercy

In an open letter, former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev asked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to show Alexander Ponosov, a Russian teacher from a remote village, mercy as he did not know he was using pirated software in his classroom. Prosecutors accuse Ponosov, headmaster of a middle school in the Perm region, of violating Microsoft's intellectual property rules by using computers in his school which run unlicensed copies of the firm's software. Russia has been mounting a high-profile crackdown on piracy as part of its efforts to join the World Trade Organization.

"A teacher, who has dedicated his life to the education of children and who receives a modest salary that does not bear comparison with the salaries of even regular staff in your company, is threatened with detention in Siberian prison camps. We have great respect for the work of Microsoft's programmers ... and are in no way casting doubt on the principle of punishment for intellectual property violations. However, in this case we ask you to show mercy and withdraw your complaint against Alexander Ponosov. This noble step will be enthusiastically received by all those in Russia who use Microsoft products," read the letter, posted on the Internet site of Gorbachev's charitable foundation.

Link: Forum Discussion (Thanks Brianshapiro)
News source: CNN

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I'm all for the teacher. He may have used pirated software and he may have known it was pirated, but I think if it were avaliable to him to buy legitimate software, I think he would.

I spent some time in those Eastern European countries, including parts of Asia(Russia) and a monthly income over there is Scarcely over $100 dollars..... SCARCELY. There is no way in HELL that this man could have afforded anything else. He's probably lucky to even have computers in his school to help teach with.

He's not going to Starve for 3 months saving up the money to buy a genuine copy. There probably isn't a ligitimate software store to get a copy from in the first place within a 500 mile radius from where he's located.

Most of the countries I visited had video stores that had hundreds if not Thousands of burned DVD's that the owners had downloaded off the net. It's just to hard for people in those countries to import ligitimate things... so they do the next best thing(And probably their only option) and get it illegialy. This was the same for Any computer store that I was able to find.

It's not the peoples fault their governments don't have a lot of power and the economys sucks a fat one... People in those countries that sell illegial copies are at least generating some money to help the country move forward.

I spent a majority of my time in Albania and this is Exactly how it was there.

That's my 2 cents.

LZ

Wait to blame anybody, even MS.

This case is quite strange. According to press (official news) there no single legal reason for that case.
Teacher got that PCs officially (according to official news again) with Windows PRE-INSTALLED by the supplier.
So there is no reason to take him into the court. Software was pre-installed. But judges has different position. So, somebody is lying.

It looks like result of stupid laws in Russia (there are A LOT of stupid and unlogical laws).

In other hand, it looks like "demonstrative case" started by Microsoft Russia itself. That teacher just became a "scapegoat", because in Russia it's almost impossible to initiate a court case against real pirates, just no such laws.

So, this case is strange... Something is wrong.

it doesnt need to be important that Gorbachev is involved.

Putin made a comment on it earlier, and Putin is in a position where he is appealing to political demands.

Putin probably heard about it because it was made an issue by people who don't like the practice of US corporations or how intellectual property law is treated (he can go to a Siberian prison camp for violating the law).

So Gorbachev picks up on the issue after its become national, because he's a more credible spokesman to Americans than Putin.

Quote - "Greenstein"
I know there is a big difference between piracy and a speeding ticket, but you get my drift.

if you say so. thats essentially what I think people are disagreement about. That the penalty for piracy should be closer to being a speeding ticket and farther from being criminal charges.

brianshapiro said,
if you say so. thats essentially what I think people are disagreement about. That the penalty for piracy should be closer to being a speeding ticket and farther from being criminal charges.

I agree with you. I was just trying to create an analogy.

My point is that MS has to set a precedent or else many people will start abusing and they'll say "well, that one guy got away with it, why me now"

If you are required to pay for something and don't, to me, thats breaking the law.

The punishment is a whole different story.

Yeah there are DEFINITELY details left out because:

a.) Microsoft needed to have a reason to investigate a small town in Russia
b.) It needs to be hella important if Gorbachev's getting involved

If it were for personal use they may not have been so hard on him. The fact is he used it in a learning environment, which in one respect is great for the kids, but bad for him and the school's image.

I believe that he didn't know as much as I believe the world is flat.

Rules are rules in my opinion.

The teacher may not have known they were illegal, but they were illegal nonetheless.

Think about this....lets say I get a speeding ticket but honestly didn't know what the speed limit sign was. Do you think the cop will let me go because I was an innocent bystandard that didn't know the posted speed limit? Not likey.

I know there is a big difference between piracy and a speeding ticket, but you get my drift.

While I may feel bad for the teacher, MS can't just go picking and choosing who the go after. If they do, it'll make matters even worse. If they are consistent in their punishing, I think its best for them. Yes they may be billionaires, but they earned it. They have a business and shareholders to tend too.

Think about this....lets say I get a speeding ticket but honestly didn't know what the speed limit sign was. Do you think the cop will let me go because I was an innocent bystandard that didn't know the posted speed limit? Not likey.

If there is no obvious (which in UK includes built-up area, street with lights regularly spaced so there is little to no penumbra between them == 30 mph) speed limit posted then you cannot be prosecuted for speeding as it falls upon the local authority to inform drivers if there is a speed restriction. Or, alternatively, you can defend yourself against the prosecution.

In any case, speeding is a criminal offence and in the enlightened parts of the world IP "theft" is normally a civil offence. What Microsoft should have done was maybe give the teacher a warning about unauthorised use (pour encourager les autres) and then donated a copy of Windows to the school so that the kids can continue to be educated using it, or, as you seem to be so keen on their bottom line above common sense, charged the school the education rate for a copy.

What kind of 'teacher' didn't know he was committing a crime? He can't read? You obtain an illegal copy of Windows and install it on all the school's computers thinking...... ???

What about using Linux? How much could a copy of Windows cost to an educator?

This definitely sounds very fishy.....

Without knowing the full details it's hard to decide how this bad this could be... What if he took money from the school to pay for the OS but pocketed the money and installed illegal copies?

Others may say 'Don't be quick to judge against him' but you can also say 'Don't be too quick to defend'.

tcsdoc said,
What kind of 'teacher' didn't know he was committing a crime? He can't read? You obtain an illegal copy of Windows and install it on all the school's computers thinking...... ???

What about using Linux? How much could a copy of Windows cost to an educator?

This definitely sounds very fishy.....

Without knowing the full details it's hard to decide how this bad this could be... What if he took money from the school to pay for the OS but pocketed the money and installed illegal copies?

Others may say 'Don't be quick to judge against him' but you can also say 'Don't be too quick to defend'.

The average school teacher would be lucky to get $200 per month; compare that to the cost of Windows Vista - you do the sums.

Again you've lost the entire point. Killing someone and using a pirated version of Windows aren't equal nor now nor never. It's a matter of using not selling someone's intellectual property, especially at his purposes. Also, the article doesn't state that HE actually installed the software, just states that 'he did not know he was using pirated software in his classroom' as in he it's just a teacher there not the system administrator or whatever should take care of what runs on those computers.

You've missed the point. Compared to a lot of people out there that are getting some profit out of selling pirated version this man deserves another chance, especially when considering what salaries a teacher gets, especially there, and let's not forget he used it in learning children purposes not on getting profit out of using the software. It's a big difference from selling and this.

dh5 said,
Exactly! the guy just wanted to do his job and teach the children

More importantly, you would think this would be the *ultimate* PR move to offer *free* copies of Windows to schools in Russia! Kids learn Windows -> Use Windows in business -> Choose Windows when they get into high places. Get them hooked when they're young and in this case, the first hit will be free :P

creamhackered said,
Wow, well done Microsoft or whatever contractors you're using - go after the small fish. Clap clap.
Didn't Rudy Guliani significantly reduce crime in NYC by going after the small-time criminals? Maybe by going after an arseload of "small time" pirates Microsoft can reduce the number of pirated versions of Windows.

guylaroche said,
Didn't Rudy Guliani significantly reduce crime in NYC by going after the small-time criminals? Maybe by going after an arseload of "small time" pirates Microsoft can reduce the number of pirated versions of Windows.


WTF , you are comparing small town teacher to small-time-criminal?

way to go fanboies.

kyro said,


WTF , you are comparing small town teacher to small-time-criminal?

way to go fanboies.

Uh..... Well, yes I am doing that. And I guess I don't see a distinction.

guylaroche said,
Uh..... Well, yes I am doing that. And I guess I don't see a distinction.

i will now keep my comments to myself in this Country of neobond.

kyro said,

i will now keep my comments to myself in this Country of neobond.

Please, I am interested to hear your rebuttal. As long as you keep it civil, Neobond won't moderate you :). But really.... If somebody is using pirated software -- and they are aware that the software is pirated -- doesn't that make them a criminal, regardless as to who they are and what they do?

guylaroche said,
Didn't Rudy Guliani significantly reduce crime in NYC by going after the small-time criminals?

How is MS going to stop all those "small time" criminals? It doesn't have the resources to, and other countries don't really give a damn about MS software being pirated.

guylaroche said,
Please, I am interested to hear your rebuttal. As long as you keep it civil, Neobond won't moderate you :). But really.... If somebody is using pirated software -- and they are aware that the software is pirated -- doesn't that make them a criminal, regardless as to who they are and what they do?

except the teacher isnt making money from selling pirated software, unlike the small time criminal who will sell the illegal software to make money which then gets used for numerous criminal activitys, such as money laundering, using the money for drugs or using it to buy weapons ? ok illegal software is illegal software, but what your saying is everyone who knows they are running illegal software should go turn themselves in ? i dont think thats going to happen anytime soon now is it

guylaroche said,
Uh..... Well, yes I am doing that. And I guess I don't see a distinction.

One is a criminal and one is a civil issue.

In New Zealand, like many other modern, enlightened, reasoning countries (US excluded from that group since 80% of yanks believe in creationism), piracy is a civil issue; and because of that, Microsoft does very little in these areas because they know the ability to justify 'large damages' by Joe Schmo running a pirated copy of Office will have them laughed out of court.

Too bad Russia has gone down the path of 'criminalise the pirater'.

Microsoft wont...but they would have informed them that it is illegal..and even if microsoft went to that much...they wont do it now! ;-)

mmm weird. Microsoft is not like the RIAA.. they've never gone after the user who pirates windows, they ago against those who sell non-legitimate copies. They even released windows started edition for those who couldn't afford windows...

It sounds unusual that Microsoft is prosecuting a single individual for installing pirated copies of windows.. specially in a school!

markjensen said,
As a member of the BSA, Microsoft has used audits on customers before. The year 2000 case of Ernie Ball (musicians all know Ball equipment) is somewhat famous, as an audit showed numerous violations of Microsoft software licenses. BSA took it right to court and used them as a public "whipping boy".

For customers, they have the BSA do their unpleasant work of enforcement.

Ernie Ball has since moved to Linux/OpenSource; nice way to screw over end users on the part of Microsoft.