Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Taking the печенье

More on my current thread later, first today I wanted to talk news & politics. This story on the Register surprised me today. Headteacher Alexander Posonov, in the village of Sepych, in the outer reaches of the Ural Mountains, in Russia has been fined $195 for Microsoft software piracy. He bought some PCs with knock off software already installed.

So why is this a surprise to me? Well, the fine came not from Microsoft, but a regional court, the case having already been thrown out by a district court. Before you go thinking that this is a reasonably lenient fine, $195 was half a month's salary for this poor man.

Apparently the motives behind this are to do with Russia trying to join the WTO and is some thoughtless attempt at strengthening a trade accord with the US. Even Vladimir Putin has said it is "ridiculous", so there is an official somewhere in the Urals with яичко on his face.
Rather than chase after the undoubtedly corrupt vendor, they chased the purchaser, which not only qualifies them for a bad cop award, but surely disqualifies them from entering any "fair trade" agreement with the US? Maybe fair trade isn't what they're both after however. I digress.

Microsoft themselves have "distanced" themselves from the investigation, and I can't say I blame them, and while this might seem like a magnanimous gesture, there is more to it than just an insane lack of justice at work.

When Microsoft officially released its software in China, they decided not to go after the pirates, because they knew what a huge economic power China were about to become. What could be more attractive than building an economy on Windows, then milking the new rich?

Russia is one of the largest economies in the world. It has the fourth largest fishing industry, so Google tells me, and is of course the largest producer of energy worldwide, most of which now belongs to Boris Yeltsin's old mates.

The flip side of this P&L examination comes in this story in the Inquirer, which says that Russian schools are now so terrified of getting caught and bankrupted for using Microsoft products which they didn't know were knocked off, they are using Linux instead. I tried to stifle my laughter, because I'm in a busy office and there's work going on. If I was the Russian official I'd be hiding in the stationery cupboard - that's more than $195 he just lost the district. Now he has Putin AND Microsoft after him.

So what's next? Will said official mysteriously disappear in the night and peace return to Sepych? Will Microsoft lean on the district court to get it turned over, will they refund the poor headteacher his half month's salary? Will we see Putin stick his oar in and get everyone back on Windows so the trade agreement goes ahead without a hitch? Will anyone make an example of this miscarriage of justice and get the real culprits so all of this mess can be sorted out? None of the above? You've got to start asking questions about how Russia/Microsoft/US trade agreements work sooner or later. I should probably stop before I get a knock on the door.

I'll be in the stationery cupboard.

P.S. "печенье" means "biscuit", "яичко" means "egg" - why, what did you think?

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