I was all revved up to tear into the evil, evil Microsoft
Mr. Softy, you're not half bad after all.
There, I said it
In Russia, over by Lake Baikal, environmental activists have been making a stink over the government's reactivation of a paper mill that's pumping millions of gallons of wastewater into the largest freshwater lake on Earth. That water's now tainted by "chlorides, phenols, sulfates and other byproducts."
To the Greens, Baikal is a sacred site, containing 20% of the fresh water supplies for the entire planet. But for the Russian government, it's just a great place to dump waste -- and put 4,500 paper production employees back to work. And in an echo of the YUKOS fiasco, and subsequent attacks on BP
Armed with new copyright laws, Russian police are raiding the offices of environmental activists and confiscating computers suspected of containing pirated Microsoft software. Worse yet, Microsoft's local lawyers have been aiding and abetting, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with government prosecutors and accusing the activists of copyright infringement.
Now, I won't go into all the legal niceties here. As always, it's a he said-she said helter-skelter of defendants contending they did buy licensed software, and prosecutors arguing the opposite. What's important is that after days of enduring salvos from the likes of The New York Times and Huffington Post, Microsoft finally saw the light yesterday, and announced a blanket software license for all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the nation.
Spinning elegantly on a dime, Microsoft Senior VP Brad Smith disavowed any "nefarious actions taken in the guise of anti-piracy enforcement" yesterday and, far from supporting the government raids, has now taken affirmative action to undermine them.
What's it mean to investors?
At best, this is a "draw" for Microsoft. By granting free licenses, Microsoft will continue losing an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue to Russian software piracy. (If I know Russians, opportunistic companies are queuing up to file for NGO status as we speak.) On the other hand, $1 billion may be a small price to pay for defusing a PR disaster. For shareholders' sakes, I hope it pays off.
While the S&P flounders, Russia's RTS index is up 32% over the past 12 months. Do you want to take advantage of international mispricings like these, but aren't quite sure where to begin looking for 'em? Let Motley Fool Global Gains be your guide. Free trials to our globetrotting, value-hunting service are available at the touch of a button.
Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft.
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