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Russian Court Dismisses Microsoft Piracy Case

A Russian court on Thursday threw out a criminal case against a school principal accused of installing pirated Microsoft software in school computers, calling the prosecution's case "trivial," a court official said.

The Vereshchaginsky District Court in the city of Perm, about 620 miles east of Moscow, dismissed the case against Alexander Ponosov, court secretary Galina Syelevanova said. Prosecutors now have 10 days to appeal the ruling, she said.

"We're off to drink champagne now," Ponosov told The Associated Press by telephone. "Of course, it was trivial."

There was no immediate reaction from Microsoft nor from Alexander Troyanov, the district prosecutor pursuing the case.

The trial was widely seen as a misguided attempt by authorities to crackdown on piracy in Russia, which industry experts consider to be second only to China in how widespread bootlegged music, illegal computer software and rip-off Hollywood movie DVDs are.

President Vladimir Putin had called the trial "utter nonsense," saying manufacturers of pirated goods should be targeted, not consumers.

Piracy experts agreed that prosecutors' efforts would be better spent targeting Russia's massive pirate infrastructure of underground optical disc plants, pirate markets and warehouses.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev appealed in a letter to Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates not to file criminal charges against Ponosov. Microsoft, however, said it had nothing to do with the charges, and that the company declined to file a civil action against the teacher last year.

Gorbachev has since stated that he was satisfied with Microsoft's response to his letter.

Ponosov, who was charged with committing major copyright violations, had said that 12 new computers at his school came with the bootleg versions of Windows operating system and Microsoft Office already installed. The prosecutor argued that he either directly ordered the pirate software to be installed or was aware that it was being installed.

The prosecutor, who said Ponosov had caused up to 267,000 rubles ($10,000) in damages to Microsoft, had only asked for a 3,000 ruble ($110) fine, rather than seeking a prison sentence of up to five years.

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