After having just been informed by the Romanian president, in so many words, that his country owes its IT success in no small part to pirated Microsoft products, can you really blame Bill Gates for being a little hesitant about standing up for the rights of an accused Russian pirate? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, Gates' and Microsoft's refusal to intervene in the case of a schoolteacher who ran his classroom PC's on illegal copies of Windows seems completely justified given the rampant piracy found in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. However, when we take a closer look at the details of the conflict -- including the fact that it was none other than Mr. Glasnost himself, Mikael Gorbachev, who requested Gates' intervention -- things get a little murkier. For his part, the teacher / principal -- Aleksandr Ponosov -- claims that he did not in fact install the pirated software himself, but only purchased the machines second-hand with the illegal bits already on board. Even Vladimir Putin -- not usually portrayed as a "people person" -- has come out publicly in support of Ponosov, and it is Putin's interest in the case which may ultimately spare the man several years of forced labor in a Siberian work camp. Microsoft's official take on the situation? "Mr. Ponosov's case is a criminal case and as such was initiated and investigated by the public prosecutor's office in Russia. We are sure that the Russian courts will make a fair decision," asserted a spokesman for the software giant, adding "We do respect the Russian government's position on the importance of protecting intellectual property rights." So, Microsoft thinks that Russia is dedicated to its IP theft crackdown? Somewhere in Moscow right now, the gang at AllofMP3.com is having a good laugh.

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