Software piracy charges against one of Russia’s most famous environmental groups have recently been dismissed following a decision by software giant Microsoft to drop their case. Offices of the Baikal Environmental Wave were raided by Irkutsk police in Siberia back in January and took away 12 computers which almost put a permanent halt to the group’s operations. Police investigators reported that the raid was justified by the presence of unlicensed Microsoft software in the said computers. However, Baikal is convinced that the raid had nothing to do with software piracy, but was instead fueled by political disinterest with their group.
Police later dropped the case against Baikal very soon after Microsoft announced big changes on its policies regarding the use of their software in the country of Russia. Microsoft’s move was prompted by extensive coverage by the New York Times of the case on the 12th of September. The New York Times article highlighted the ploy of officials across Russia who regularly conducts raids on advocacy groups and opposition media outlets under the pretext of software piracy. Microsoft in response issued a global statement that it would no longer support such cases of software piracy in the country, catching authorities by surprise.
With Microsoft no longer willing to work with authorities on persecuting so-called “software pirates”, police dropped all charges against Baikal Wave on grounds of absence of criminal act. Microsoft even apologized for their participation in the false investigations and pledged no further involvement. The software giant’s decision now makes it very hard for authorities to carry out their old law enforcement strategies against groups that are opposed to the Russian government.