A ‘scapegoat’ has been avenged

Today Alexander Ponosov, who was charged with infringement of Microsoft’s intellectual property rights by using classroom computers with unlicensed software, has won 250 thousand roubles (about USD$8 thousand) as ‘moral damages’, a monetary compensation for the stress he had suffered.

Three years ago Mr Ponosov, then the principal of a high school in a remote village in Siberia, was prosecuted for the usage of illegal copies of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office on twelve school computers. Microsoft company valued the damage at 254,035.31 roubles (about USD$10 thousand) just a fraction above the statutory threshold of 250 thousand roubles for the offence to be qualified as causing ‘serious damage’ and triggering criminal conviction of 5 years in jail.

The case, however, received an unheard of resonance. Several public figures, including former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the acting Russia’s president, spoke in Ponosov’s defence. ‘Taking a man,’ said Vladimir Putin, ‘who just bought some computer and threaten him with prison is an utter nonsense.’

In May 2007 Mr Ponosov was found guilty and fined 5 thousand roubles (about USD$200). Yet, the headmaster insisted on full innocence, appealed and in December 2008, having reached the Supreme Court, he bagged a non-guilty verdict.

On July 23, 2009 a district court granted him 75 thousand roubles (about USD$2.4 thousand) payable by the Russian government as the compensation of the material losses but refused to order moral damages, as it should have been considered in a separate, civil, case.

Now, it seems, he has been avenged in full.

Mr Ponosov left his post as the school’s principal and founded non-commercial organisation ‘Centre of Free Technologies’ which promotes open-source programs in the state funded organisations.

In March 2007, Dmitry Medvedev, then the vice prime-minister of Russia, in an on-line interview said: ‘These programs - we all know them well - are sold for not so little, and bring to big developers of what is known as soft quite remarkable, if not huge, profits.’



September 9, 2009