Microsoft launches product giveaway over copyright harassment

Microsoft will turn a blind eye on its pirated products used by NGOs in a number of countries after a news report described how authorities can use copyright legislation to harass organizations involved in public action.

The report in Sunday’s New York Times focused on Russia and described cases when local authorities allegedly used anti-piracy legislation to put pressure on non-governmental organizations and the media, which used software illegally.

On Monday, Microsoft Senior Vice President Brad Smith posted on the company’s blog that the software giant will immediately create a new unilateral license for such organizations. It will effectively make it legal for them to use freely a limited number of Microsoft products, even if they do not get them through authorized vendors.

The company has a software donation program for NGOs and journalists, but, as Smith says, many organizations are not aware of that. The new automatic license will allow qualifying NGOs to benefit from its terms, even if they are not aware of that.

Microsoft has also launched an internal investigation into the alleged participation of its law counseling partners in such practices described by the New York Times.