Sunday, September 12, 2010

Russian government uses trumped up copyright charges to goad Microsoft into helping it shut down dissidents

Clifford J. Levy has a shocking story on the front page of the Sunday September 12 New York Times, “Above the Law: Using Microsoft, Russia Suppresses Dissent”, link here.

Russia, in the Putin area of authoritarian capitalism, is using copyright law as a proxy for going after dissident groups. Particularly, it has goaded Microsoft into assisting it with raids for supposedly using pirated software, against organizations that challenge government policy. One such group was the Baikal Environmental Wave, link.

Reportedly, Russia does not harass organizations which support its government.

The story is hitting the news at a time when mass litigation against bloggers and computer users for copyright infringement is going on in the United States, as reported in the “BillBoushka” blog on Sept. 8 and 10. Although there may be more legal justification for the cases in the US, the parallel is disturbing. For people whose speech is threatening to the agenda of those in control, it’s temping to use “legal terrorism” and make up charges in order to force them to spend money to defend themselves, in order to silence them.

In the Russian cases, computers were sometimes returned after being cleaned of “subversive” data that the government did not want disseminated, and sometimes the computers were deliberately infected with viruses.

Update: Sept. 21:  Media have reported that Microsoft has agreed to stop cooperating with these sorts of witchhunts in Russia.

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