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Gorbachev tells Gates to leave the pirates alone

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Mikhail Gorbachev, the former, and last, leader of the Soviet Union is asking Bill Gates to intervene in a case of a Russian school teacher who is facing time in a Siberian prison camp for using pirated software.

In a letter on his website, yes Gorby's got a blog, Gorbachev calls on Gates to show mercy.

The letter says, via Google translation: "Dear Mr. Gates! We very much respect the work Microsoft programmers who invest their talents in intellectual products, and in no way question the validity of the principle of liability for copyright infringement. However, in this situation, we ask you to show mercy and withdraw claims to Alexandru Ponosov."

The letter says the teacher bought the computers for the school with pre-installed software on them. But Russian piracy laws allow for punishment even for people who are unaware they are breaking the law.

It says: "Teachers, who dedicated their lives to bringing up their children and receiving for their work very modest remuneration, incomparable with incomes even staff your company shall be liable to imprisonment in the Siberian camps."

Microsoft rejected the call for clemency, telling the New York Times it had full confidence in the Russian courts.

The 75-year old ex-president called on Gates to withdraw the claims against the teacher and said: "The honourable action would be enthusiastically received by all the users of Microsoft products in Russia." ®

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