Principal Guilty in Microsoft Piracy Case
A court Monday found the principal of a village school guilty of using bootleg
Microsoft software and ordered him to pay a fine of about $195 in a case that
was cast by Russian media as a battle between a humble educator and an international
The trial of Alexander Ponosov, who was charged with violating intellectual
property rights by using classroom computers with pirated versions of the Windows
operating system and Microsoft Office software installed, has attracted wide
Russian officials frequently allege that foreign governments, including the
U.S., are meddling in Russia's internal affairs, and Russian media reports have
portrayed the case as that of a Western corporation bringing its power to bear
on one man -- in this case, a principal who also teaches history and earns $360
Microsoft, however, has said repeatedly it
has nothing to do with the charges, which were brought by Russian prosecutors
in the Ural Mountains region where Ponosov's school is located.
The case "was initiated by Russian authorities under Russian law,"
the company said in an e-mailed statement after the verdict. "Microsoft
neither initiated nor has any plans to bring any action against Mr. Ponosov."
Prosecutor Natalya Kurdoyakova said in televised remarks that Ponosov knew
he was violating the law "and illegally used these programs in computer
Ponosov has maintained his innocence, saying that the computers at the school
came with the software already installed.
"I had no idea it wasn't licensed," Ponosov told The Associated Press
by telephone. He said that he planned to file an appeal.
"Prosecutors made a lot of mistakes starting from the moment they checked
the computers," he said.
Ponosov was found guilty of causing $10,000 in damage to the company, RIA-Novosti
quoted judge Valentina Tiunova as saying.
In February, the court in the Vereshchaginsky district of the Perm region threw
out the case, saying Ponosov's actions were "insignificant" and presented
no danger to society. Both Ponosov and prosecutors vowed to appeal in hopes
of forcing a clear decision, with Ponosov saying he wanted a full acquittal.
In March, the regional court ordered Ponosov to stand trial a second time.
Despite government pledges to crack down on Russia's rampant piracy, the country
remains the No. 2 producer of bootlegged software, movies and music after China.
In April, the Bush administration put Russia, China and 10 other nations on
a "priority watch list," which will subject them to extra scrutiny
and could eventually lead to economic sanctions if the administration decides
to bring trade cases before the World Trade Organization.
The designation was made in an annual report the administration is required
to provide to Congress each year that highlights the problems U.S. companies
are facing around the world with copyright piracy. The report said that the
United States will be closely watching to see how Russia fulfills the commitments
it made to upgrading copyright protection as part of a U.S.-Russia accord reached
last year which was seen as a key milestone in Russian efforts to join the WTO.