updated 09:20 pm EDT, Sun October 17, 2010
MS auto-granting SW licenses in 12 new countries
Microsoft today expanded on its plans to avoid anti-dissent piracy crackdowns by expanding its coverage to 12 more countries. In addition to Russia, the pledge is now extending to China, Malaysia, Vietnam and eight former Soviet states. The policy will continue as before and automatically grant licenses to Microsoft software for advocacy groups and other non-profits so that piracy can't be used as a pretext to stamp out political opposition.
The effort won't take immediate effect. Microsoft deputy general counsel Nancy Anderson noted that the efforts still have to accommodate the law and receive local translations. Other countries may be included, however.
Microsoft's decision to extend its free licenses to authoritarian or otherwise politically volatile countries came after the New York Times exposed the Windows developer's complicit involvement in suppressing political opposition in these areas. Russian officials used piracy allegations to confiscate computers owned by eco-activism group Baikal Environmental Wave after they opposed the reopening of a polluting factory that the Medvedev administration supported. At the time, lawyers for Microsoft not only ignored attempts to prove that BEW's software was legal but actively supported the crackdown.
Apple and other OS or software developers haven't usually followed suit, though the nature of their OS policies has made it more difficult to use piracy as an excuse. Since a Mac by definition has to ship with legal copies of Mac OS X and iLife already installed, bootlegs are rare. Linux is usually free and open-source and thus can't be pirated.