After The New York Times reported last week that Russian officials were using software piracy raids as an excuse to confiscate the computers of groups that speak out against the government, Microsoft changed its tune regarding non-governmental organizations and software licenses. Microsoft SVP and general counsel, Brad Smith, announced the change Monday in a blog post.
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. We are moving swiftly to seek to remove any incentive or ability to engage in such behavior.
In the past, Microsoft reportedly paid for attorneys to protect its rights as the "victim" of piracy in these situations, telling the advocacy groups that protested removal of their computers it was only following the law.
To ensure that no longer happens, Smith said, the company will provide a blanket software license for journalists and advocacy groups that will automatically apply. Moreover, the company also plans to set up legal aid for the non-governmental organizations in Russia that face piracy investigations.
The blanket licenses will be valid at least until 2012, and Smith indicated the program would likely extend to other countries.