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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Perm Court Throws Out Headmaster Piracy Case

A Russian court on Thursday threw out the software piracy case against the head of a village school accused of installing pirated Microsoft software on school computers.

Presiding Judge Vera Barakina of the Vereshchaginsky District Court in Perm dismissed the case against Alexander Ponosov on the grounds that it was "of little significance and no threat to the public."

Ponosov, who had pled not guilty, said the ruling was a "big relief."

"But something tells me the nightmare will continue," he said by telephone after the verdict Thursday.

"I do not expect prosecutors to accept defeat without a fight."

Ponosov received positive coverage in the Russian media and support from important public figures, with both President Vladimir Putin and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev speaking out in his support.

The trial was seen as a test case on the legal implications of software piracy, which is rampant in Russia.

"There is no prospect for the defense of piracy or intellectual property in Russia in the foreseeable future," said Lyudmila Konovalova, a defense lawyer at the Agency for Defense of Consumer Rights. "Ponosov is a victim of circumstances, and the case against him is a mere showcase that afforded officials and politicians to bask in publicity."

Konovalova said software piracy was so widespread in Russia that to curb it, the government would have to "prosecute no less than 80 percent of software users, some of them government establishments."

"Software piracy begins with bringing the necessary software reproduction equipment into the country, at which stage officials generally look the other way," Konovalova said.

The state does not currently offer any protection against piracy or violations of intellectual property rights, she said.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance, a coalition of seven industry groups, said Monday that the country's copyright piracy problem "remains one of the most serious in the world'' with piracy rates of roughly 70 percent.

The body recommended that Russia along with China be added to U.S. government lists of countries that do not adequately protect copyrights and other intellectual property.

Software piracy was one of the most contentious issues in bilateral talks on World Trade Organization entry between the United States and Russia. A long-awaited deal paving Russia's way into the WTO was concluded in November between the two countries at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi.