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Russia hits out at Microsoft licensing

Government says "costly and restrictive" policies are to blame for the high rates of consumer piracy in the country.

The Russian government has hit out at Microsoft, claiming the software giant's overly strict and costly licensing regime is to blame for the high rates of consumer piracy in the country.

Antipiracy group the Business Software Alliance lists Russia as one of the top 10 worst offending countries for counterfeit software. Deputy Russian IT minister Dmitry Milovantsev admitted in a briefing in Moscow last week software piracy is a "very serious problem" for the country.

He said the low average income of people in Russia is one of the factors in the relatively widespread use of cheaper pirated copies of software. But he also laid some of the blame on the behavior of the large software vendors for their restrictive and expensive licensing policies.

In particular he singled out Microsoft for its policy of not allowing partners to sell computers without copies of Windows pre-installed in Russia.

"If you want to install Linux you have to erase Microsoft, and that increases the cost of each computer by $50. (With) one that already has Windows installed on it, and you want to use open source, you have to install the operating system," he said.

Milovantsev said law enforcement efforts should be focused not on the individuals caught using fake software but the criminals manufacturing it.

"We are constantly fighting against unlicensed use of software, but we need to fight not with the consumers but those who develop the software," he said.

With Russia stepping up its bid to compete in the international IT outsourcing market and attract business to the country, Milovantsev maintained it has a "very strict and solid" position when it comes to industrial intellectual property rights.

The problem of software piracy in Russia has been highlighted in recent weeks by the case of a teacher accused of using unlicensed copies of Microsoft Windows and Office software on 12 classroom PCs.

The case attracted the attention of current Russian President Vladimir Putin and former leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who called for the charges to be dropped. This week, the Russian courts dismissed the prosecution calls for the teacher to be fined and rejected the case as "trivial."

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.