Yesterday a discussion section of the Autodesk Russian web site was attacked by numerous angry users of torrents.ru. The Autodesk web site administrators had to clean up their pages from obscene words blaming Autodesk as guilty for temporary closing of the very popular torrents.ru which then moved from Russian hosting to rutracker.org.
The closing was initiated by the Moscow prosecutor's office which opened an investigation against the web site. The investigation has found that torrents.ru users downloaded illegal software – in particular, those of Autodesk and of 1C (the largest and a very popular Russian ERP vendor). For example, a purchase of AutoCAD for the price $50 was traced to torrents.ru.
As I can conclude from the discussion at the Autodesk Russian web site, the company denies any explicit or implicit suggestions that these actions would have been performed on behalf of Autodesk which got the news in the same way as all other people – from the media, meaning that law executors never ask the right holders what should be done to lawbreakers.
For me, the key point of this episode is that among angry comments at the forums there was no blaming of the illegal software downloading. In particular, in a related discussion at isicad.ru (where I am the editor) one of the angry CAD professionals, an active visitor of isicad.ru who does not look like a friend of Autodesk:), argued that the prosecutor's decision was not fair because (a) “in Russia you can buy illegal software everywhere almost for free; this is a basic feature of Russian mentality” and (b) can’t believe that Autodesk did not itself initiate the case.
So, many people in Russia believe that a simple and straightforward interpretation of the torrents.ru case (and similar cases) is improbable; and prefer looking for some underlying reasons. A nice example is an opinion – repeatedly expressed at some web forums – that recent severity of the Moscow prosecutor's regarding torrents.ru is related to a current visit of a USA high-tech delegation to Russia (see my post John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, joined Twitter in Siberia): i.e., the Russian authorities are pointedly demonstrating to the international community their strong commitment to combating against illegal software and more generally – to establishing the rule of law in Russia.
Whatever it is, the actual trend is positive: compared to 90% of illegal software in the 90s, today this indicator is estimated as 70% or less. My own impression is that, in spite of the above mentioned comments, social mentality (at least in high tech) is slowly but definitely developing in the right direction.
One of the sources (in Russian): a Vedomosti newspaper article.