Microsoft is giving away free software to protect NGOs and stop them from falling victim to actions taken in the guise of anti-piracy enforcement.
Back in September Microsoft announced it was creating a new, unilateral software license for NGOs (non-government organizations) to ensure they have free, legal copies of Microsoft products. The move came after a New York Times report claimed Microsoft was aiding the Russian government in its raids against dissident groups.
In September an NYT article reported that an environmental group opposed to the Russian government's decision to reopen a paper factory had had their offices raided. Baikal Wave said they had purchased legal copies of Microsoft software to remove the chance that the government could cry piracy and carry out a raid on their offices. Despite the fact that did not pirate any Microsoft software, their premises were raided and their computers were seized. The groups said Microsoft was no help in their situation, and NYT said in refusing to help, Microsoft was aiding the Russian government in these kinds of raids.
Not too long after the NYT article was published, Microsoft issued a statement claiming it would be investigating the claims made in the report, conceding that, "it was not the type of story that felt good to read." The Redmond-based company announced that it would be making a change to ensure this kind of thing could not happen again: All Russian NGOs would be covered by a new, unilateral software license that would provide them with free MS software and remove the ability to carry out raids based on piracy.
Now Microsoft is bringing this new software license for NGOs to numerous other countries. The company recently announced that it would be extending the program to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
NYT reports that the expansion will allow Microsoft to provide more than 500,000 non-profits with free software, and Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel and Corporate VP Nancy Anderson says the NGO software license will last until January 1, 2012, giving NGOs ample time to move to the company's standard NGO software donation program.