Russian Judge Dismisses Any Penalty in Piracy Case

Posted by bink on February 17 2007, 1:48 AM. Posted in Piracy.

A Russian judge convicted a provincial school headmaster on Thursday for using pirated Microsoft software in school computers, but declined to impose any penalty, saying that Microsoft’s loss was insignificant compared with its overall earnings.

The case has been closely watched as a test of how Russia will enforce intellectual property rights as it moves closer to membership in the World Trade Organization. The verdict was broadcast on Russian state television.

Vera Barakina, a judge in a regional court in Vereshagino, about 650 miles east of Moscow, ruled that the principal was guilty of installing Windows operating systems and software suites on 12 computers used by his students, and that this had cost Microsoft about $9,700.

But then, reading from a prepared statement, Ms. Barakina called this sum “insignificant” compared with Microsoft’s worldwide income.

The principal, Aleksandr M. Ponosov, who could have been sentenced to five years in prison, celebrated by uncorking a bottle of Champagne outside the courthouse.

Mr. Ponosov’s case resonated widely here, touching on the capriciousness of the criminal justice system, something that Russians understand all too well. With Mr. Ponosov, prosecutors plucked one user of pirated software from among millions and threatened a five-year sentence.

The prosecutor, Aleksandr V. Troyanov, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he would appeal the verdict. He criticized the judge’s logic, saying that the damage relative to Microsoft’s earnings had no bearing on the case.

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