Black Friday

Russia trying (again) to shake off its reputation as haven for piracy

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

April 28, 2015

Amendments to local laws that come into effect in Russia on the 1st of May look like they could (in theory at least) deal a powerful blow to piracy in the nation. By protecting more content than ever before, and by allowing for websites to be blocked permanently (should they continue to make flagged content available), the amendments – which will be added to laws passed 21 months ago – are the result of massive pressure from both local and international rights holders.

For some time now, Russia has been seen as a haven for piracy, with authorities doing very little to curb its position as a nation that goes soft on copyright infringement.  It is for this reason that on 1 August 2013 new intellectual property legislation was passed that gave intermediaries the power to request that infringing sites remove any copyrighted material within 72 hours – or face the possibility of being blocked.

In reality, however, the law was almost completely ineffective, with Russian Telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor revealing one year later that while the Moscow city court had, at the request of copyright holders, imposed preliminary interim injunctions on 175 websites, only 12 of those take-down requests had resulted in sites (mainly BitTorrent trackers) being blocked.

Under ever growing pressure, and mounting complaints from copyright holders, it would appear that Russia has decided to further tighten its belt in the hope of finally shaking off its reputation as a piracy-lenient nation, and while the original law only covered video content, from 1 May all multimedia apart from photographs will receive protection.

Although it is still not quite clear yet how it will all play out in reality (especially considering the first round of legislation’s blatant ineffectiveness), in theory at least, the law gives the court the power to force intermediaries such as ISPs and website hosts to permanently take down websites that continue to host or provide access to copyrighted material.

At this early stage, then, it certainly does look like the type of draconian legislation that US copyright holders had been hoping to have passed elsewhere – strong, all encompassing legislation that gives courts the power to shut down infringing sites forever.

Talking about the broad nature of the law, State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak said,

‘The anti-piracy legislation that created the ability to block access to sites that distribute copyright-infringing films and TV shows entered into force on 1 August 2013. On May 1, 2015 amendments to the Act will come into force that apply to music, books and software… Our common goal is to ensure that all work is adequately rewarded and that the benefit from successful books, music and wonderful computer programs is enjoyed by those who created them, and not those who stole them. If [site owners] are not interested in legal business, the response of the state will become quite obvious.’

Finally, in what appears to be a tough warning to operators of  BitTorrent websites and the like, Zheleznyak adds (Russian).

“I would like to warn those who are still abusing piracy: you have until May 1 to try to and enter into constructive dialogue with rightsholders. They are open to cooperation,”

It would seem then, that Russia is now readying to transform itself from a piracy haven into a watchdogs’ dream, but considering the law’s inability to curb video content piracy in the first place, just how successful these amendments will be remains to be seen. It will all rest on the Moscow city court, and whether it presses forward with enforcing the legislation. Although as we have seen, in the past it did not.

After all, this could just be a political move rather than a real call to action, allowing Russia to appear to be appeasing the entertainment industries’ constant requests for online copyright protection in a nation that has been notoriously lax at doing so.

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