"Our Appeals to Microsoft Have at Last Been Heard"

Source: hro.org (Author), 20/09/10

· Human Rights Defenders · Voronezh Region · Krasnodar Region · Moscow City & Moscow Region · Samara Region

Open Letter by Civil Society Organizations on the Statement by the Vice President of Microsoft Corporation about Changes to Company Strategy in Russia

We, the representatives of Russian non-governmental organizations working to combat corruption and protect human rights, wish to express our great satisfaction that our proposals and the appeals of our colleagues addressed to Microsoft Corporation have finally been heard.

We sincerely welcome the statement by Vice-President and General Counsel of Microsoft, Brad Smith, placed on the company’s official blog on 13 September 2010. Microsoft has drawn the correct conclusions from a situation where members of the company in Russia’s regions have become involved in politically-motivated criminal prosecutions of civil society organizations and media.

The appropriate and timely measures, announced in the statement of Mr Brad Smith, will help restore the reputation of Microsoft and defuse the indignation among NGOs and journalists in Russia at the actions of a number of the company’s representatives.

For our part, we are ready to develop proposals and assist in the implementation of Microsoft’s new policy in Russia.

For us it is important that the new automatic licence for NGOs and certain types of media, proposed by Microsoft, should become a reality. With the help of this licence, the confiscation of computer hardware by law enforcement agencies under the pretext of protecting the interests of Microsoft should be impossible.

We welcome the fact that Microsoft has publicly announced that representatives of the company will under no circumstances take part in such actions by law enforcement agencies on the territory of Russia.

We also fully support the offer of assistance in the form of free legal advice for those NGOs and small media outlets that remain under criminal prosecution, as well as in those cases where such situations recur with other organizations in the future.

We are open for any further discussions concerning the implementation of Microsoft’s new strategy, and organizing joint educational activities in connection with the company’s new policy, as well as on measures against software piracy in our country.

It may be worth discussing the establishment of a permanent consultative forum for major copyright holders, in the first place Microsoft, and leading NGOs and media for joint action to promote international standards of human rights and measures against piracy in Russia.

We hope that Microsoft will also consider introducing these positive changes in its strategy for working with NGOs and small media in other countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), given the no less vulnerable situation of civil society in these countries.

The effective and appropriate actions of the leadership of the US Microsoft Corporation could become a model for other large copyright holders, such as Adobe, Corel and others, who also work with private lawyers in the regions and whose products have enjoyed success in Russia.

As the example of Microsoft shows, the necessary and legitimate fight against the proliferation of pirated software should not be accompanied by a violation of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech.

With gratitude and in hope of further cooperation,

Transparency International – R: Centre for Anti-Corruption Research and Initiatives
International Youth Human Rights Movement
Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
Civic Assistance Committee
Institute of Human Rights
Samara Regional Organization VOICE - In Defence of Voters’ Rights
Krasnodar Regional Organization ETnIKA