I refer readers back to my article only a few days ago, where in reference to what I perceived as the “two-faced” Microsoft, I said:

Microsoft, you’ve got to love them, they’ve got more faces than Mount Rushmore….

You can read the rest of that article here.

After reports of Microsoft allegedly aiding the Russian Police in quelling dissent, albeit under the guise of anti-piracy, it now appears that if the allegation was true, Microsoft has changed its mind.

Microsoft are reported to have issued the following statements after the New York Times broke the story which subsequently spread around the Internet on numerous blogs and sites.

Over on the official Microsoft Blog, the following was said in relation to the whole incident:

A story in yesterday’s New York Times reports on anti-piracy enforcement actions in Russia that have been used for more nefarious purposes than protecting intellectual property rights.

As General Counsel for Microsoft, it was not the type of story that felt good to read….

I’m sure it wasnt, but then again there’s many a story about Microsoft that doesn’t feel good to read.  I could cite Plurk incident as one that springs to mind or how about the regular exploits of Windows? however this is about Microsoft and the Russian authorities, so lets move on:

Whatever the circumstances of the particular cases the New York Times described, we want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy….

Which I think should have ended with “if we are exposed”   …maybe?

One thing Microsoft does have to get credit for is one of the first times I’ve seen an allegation made against them where Microsoft doesn’t say “Microsoft blames….”  this time around Microsoft says:

We must accept responsibility and assume accountability for our anti-piracy work

but then again, what could they say?  I wonder, had this story not gone viral, would we be reading that blog post at all?

To prevent non-government organizations from falling victim to nefarious actions taken in the guise of anti-piracy enforcement, Microsoft will create a new unilateral software license for NGOs that will ensure they have free, legal copies of our products.

Let’s be fair though, you are not going to make much money from such groups anyway and the bad publicity of further “anti-piracy” enforcement would just do more harm to your image.

Microsoft report that they are having an independent investigation into this “incident” but go on to say:

We don’t, however, want simply to wait for the outcome of this review.

Which I believe shows that this is now an exercise in damage control as Microsoft did not envisage a situation where the story would become so big.

Too little too late Microsoft, these new licenses should have been in place years ago if you really are pro-NGO.

Visit the Microsoft Blog to see the above quotes in context.

So what are people thinking?  I’ve given my opinions on what I consider is happening here, but lets take a look at Computer World, where they have taken a different view to me.  You can read that article here. What I would like to consider further though are some of the comments by readers:

Yes, that would make a good carrot and stick. Once all the NGOs in the world are dependent on Microsoft’s software and the pesky Free Software is marginalized Microsoft can reap their harvest, year after year after year. So what’s good for Microsoft is bad for everyone else.

and

….Start throwing money and licenses in every direction to show what “good guys” they are. Same ol same ol from Microsoft.

and

Those NGOs wouldn’t have been raided if they hadn’t spent “some of their extremely limited funds” on Microsoft. They got kicked in the teeth for using Microsoft.

and it should be noted that apparently the NGO’s in question DID have Microsoft licenses for their software.

The bad feeling continues:

The company remained blind to its actions in Russia for months until the New York Times ran a major investigative piece. Yes, we should be happy that Microsoft has finally done the right thing. But if you read the article knowing this outcome, you’d be even more appalled that the company hadn’t acted sooner. Your effusive praise is mis-placed and in essence, the rest of your comments amount to nothing more than a news release from corporate headquarters.

I’ll leave you to make your own mind up, damage control or decent gesture? I know where I’d put my money.  One thing seems certain though, in the eyes of many, Microsoft’s “efforts” in respect of this recent incident, really don’t count for much.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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