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07 February, 2007 - Published 15:38 GMT
Gorbachev enters software piracy argument
In Russia former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has joined an argument about computer software piracy. Mr Gorbachev has asked Bill Gates the boss of Microsoft to help a school teacher accused of using pirated versions of the company's software. This report from Rodney Smith:
Mikhail Gorbachev's intervention highlights the plight of the man being described in US as well as Russian media reports as merely a humble schoolteacher with the interests of his pupils at heart. Alexander Ponosov is alleged to have been running pirated copies of Microsoft's Windows operating system on computers at his school in the town of Perm, in the Urals Mountains.
Microsoft's local representatives in Russia accuse Mr Ponosov of knowlingly using pirated software that cost the company of $10,000 in losses. Microsoft boss Bill Gates said last week that his company had made profits of a billion dollars a month in the second half of last year, that's about $33m a day. Mr Gorbachev's letter, published on his charitable foundation's website, appealed to Mr Gates to show mercy to the schoolteacher and warned that Mr Ponosov could be locked up in one of Siberia's notorious prison camps if found guilty. Mr Ponosov says he's innocent and that the software had been installed on the computers before he got them.
President Putin has joined in as well, calling on investigators to aim for the distributors, not the users in cases like this. However the authorities in Russia are eager to show that they are cracking down on theft of intellectual property like computer software. In the past, Russia's record has not been good, and Moscow is keen to join the World Trade Organisation and a sound record on respect for the property of others is an essential requirement.
Rodney Smith, BBC
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