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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Teacher in Piracy Case Starts Campaign for Free Software

A village schoolteacher who became a popular hero after he was put on trial for using pirated Microsoft programs has launched a campaign against what he calls the software giant's global domination.

During his trial, Alexander Ponosov was portrayed by local media as a hero in a David-and-Goliath battle against big corporations. President Vladimir Putin and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev both spoke out in his support.

Ponosov announced Tuesday that he was founding a lobby group whose aim would be to reduce the country's dependence on software produced by companies like Microsoft and instead promote open-source software.

The junior schoolteacher, who lives in a remote village in the Perm region in the Ural mountains, said the domination of big software companies was a threat to national security.

"Our dependence on Western proprietary software is a risk for us. We are, in effect, losing the independence of this country," Ponosov told a news conference.

"To quote Alexander III, Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy."

He said the answer was open-source software, in which programs are written by volunteers and the code is in the public domain. Ponosov added, "I have not been using Microsoft software on my computer at home for more than a year."

The teacher was fined 5,000 rubles -- about $200, or half his monthly wage -- last year when a local court found him guilty of installing unlicensed Microsoft Windows and Office software on computers used by students at his school.

He said the software was installed on the computers when they were delivered by a subcontractor and that he did not know that the licenses were faked.

Ponosov said his organization, called the Russian Center for Free Technologies, would lobby the parliament to adopt legislation encouraging the use of open-source software.