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South Russia court sentences businessman for Microsoft piracy

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MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - A court in south Russia's Astrakhan Region has given a three-year suspended sentence to a local businessman who traded pirated Microsoft software, the regional prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

A statement from the prosecutor's office said that by producing and selling pirated discs, Mikhail Shvets inflicted damages to the copyright holders exceeding 5 million rubles ($211,000).

Last month the Russian Interior Ministry reported that copyright piracy in Russia, which has been a major obstacle to the country joining the World Trade Organization, dropped 15% in 2007, year-on-year.

Russia, the second-largest market for pirated products after China, has been strongly criticized internationally for its failure to protect intellectual property rights.

Over 4,000 people were arrested in 2007, and more than 800 people in January-March this year for breaching copyright laws, Vladimir Lukyanov, deputy head of the ministry's economic security department, said last month.

Almost four million counterfeit items, mainly computer software, DVDs and CDs, worth an estimated 182 million rubles ($8 million) were seized last year.

Last year Alexander Ponosov, a school principal in a small town in the Perm Region, was charged with copyright violation after he bought a set of computers for his school containing unlicensed Microsoft software.

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