Microsoft responds to Russian crackdown by extending software licenses to NGOs

Put yourself in Microsoft's shoes for a second: how would you feel if the Russian government used your product as a pretext for shutting down opposition groups? As you know, that's exactly what happened in January when an NGO known as Baikal Environmental Wave had its computers confiscated under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. The group, it seems, is spearheading opposition to the reopening of a paper factory with a history of polluting Lake Baikal -- much to the chagrin of a certain Prime Minister Putin. In an attempt to keep this sort of thing from happening in the future (and to clean up its tarnished image), Microsoft has announced that it will provide a unilateral NGO Software License that automatically covers NGOs and media outlets in Russia and other, as yet unspecified, countries, and which will extend until at least 2012. "We want to be clear," said VP and general counsel Brad Smith. "We unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain."