School Director Fined Over Microsoft Piracy

A Perm region court Monday found a school principal guilty of using pirated Microsoft software and fined him 5,000 rubles ($195) after a retrial that has been cast by some media as a battle between a humble educator and a mighty international corporation.

The case of Alexander Ponosov, whom prosecutors accused of using bootlegged versions of the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office software on classroom computers, has attracted wide attention.

"He knew [he was violating the law] and illegally used these programs in computer classes," prosecutor Natalya Kurdoyakova said in televised remarks.

Ponosov confirmed the court's verdict and said he planned to file an appeal.

"I had no idea it wasn't licensed," Ponosov said by telephone.

"Prosecutors made a lot of mistakes starting from the moment they checked the computers," he said.

The 5,000-ruble fine is the equivalent of more than half Ponosov's monthly salary.

The court ruled that Ponosov had caused 266,000 rubles ($10,000) in damage to Microsoft, the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.

Microsoft has repeatedly said it has nothing to do with the charges.

"Mr. Ponosov's case was initiated by Russian authorities under Russian law," the company said in an e-mailed statement after Monday's verdict.

"Microsoft neither initiated nor has any plans to bring any action against Mr. Ponosov."

In February, the court in the Vereshchaginsky district of the Perm region threw out the charges against Ponosov, saying his actions were "insignificant" and presented no danger to society.

Prosecutors appealed the decision, however, as did Ponosov, who hoped to force a ruling that would completely exonerate him. In March, the court ordered him to stand trial a second time.

Despite government pledges to crack down on rampant piracy, Russia remains the No. 2 producer of bootlegged software, movies and music after China, trade groups and some Western governments say. The United States last month put Russia, China and 10 other nations on a "priority watch list," which will subject them to extra scrutiny. It could eventually lead to economic sanctions if the administration decides to bring trade cases before the World Trade Organization. The U.S. government has said it will be watching closely to see how Russia fulfills the commitments it made to upgrading copyright protection as part of a U.S.-Russian accord reached last year that was seen as a key milestone in Russia's efforts to join the WTO.