Russia: controversial anti-piracy law comes into force

Russia, the country in Europe with most internet users, is hit today with a new copyright law (PDF). The website of the unofficial Russian Pirate Party turned black overnight, while several big websites such as Wikipedia draw attention to the new legislation.

At the core of the controversy is the bill’s provision for advanced security measures to block websites based on the mere assumption that copyright infringements are at play. Copyright owners can additionally swiftly file complaints against alleged copyright violations.

“The law will target only providers of illegal content, not downloaders, and will apply only to movies, TV shows, and video productions,” The Moscow News reported back in June. Upon verification, article 4 of the law makes explicit reference to only “audiovisual works and (or) soundtracks.” The Russian regulator of communications Roskomnadzor argues that the law will help “develop a legal video online market”, as reported today by the BBC.

Big internet barks back at big film

Many stakeholders agree that the proliferation of illegal videos is an issue that needs to be addressed. Nonetheless, the new bill, which is a series of “amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation on the protection of intellectual property rights in information and telecommunications networks”, “will cause great damage to both the new models of content distribution, as well as educational institutions and cultural issues (schools, universities, museums, libraries),” a statement of the Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC) reads.

The controversial legislation, No 292521-6, which mainly updates copyright legislation of the Russian Civil Code, has been characterised as the Russian version of the failed SOPA legislation in the US. It has drawn protests after its passing in the Duma on June 17, 2013, including from Russian organisations and internet companies such as, Yandex, Google Russia, Wikimedia Russia and more, as RAEC reports.

Starting today, companies and organisations face the risk to be blacklisted at the level of internet service providers (ISPs) if they do not remove unlicensed content or links that point to such content within 72 hours, the news outlet Torrent Freak reports. The text of the law in effect mentions “3 working days.” Specifically, ISPs need to abide to the court order by implementing an “immediate removal of unlawfully posted information and (or) take arrangements to limit access to it.”

Russian search engine Yandex criticised the legislation as being “technically illiterate” and as a measure that would “hit everyone.” The blocking at the ISP level would threaten the very existence of Russian search engines and could shut down completely legal sites, Yandex contended in July.

More legislation in the pipeline

Dmitry Burkov, first Chairperson of the council coordinating the Russian national top level domains .RU, wrote in an email to the Internet Policy Review that he did not see an immediate threat to websites such as Wikipedia, as the law is mainly designed to protect video content from being pirated. “We criticise more how it was prepared and that it ignores the economic realities in Russia,” he said. Burkov is nonetheless concerned that more legislation was in the pipeline: legislation copying the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act. He goes further, blaming US copyright lobbyists for the spiral of anti-piracy legislation in Russia.

More vicious blocking legislation might also be on its way, a Russian internet expert currently participating in the 87th Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Berlin said. The copyright law had also been called for by Russian film industry, he said, but would much certainly not help it economically. “Websites will just relocate elsewhere.” Yet he was much more concerned with the additional legislation that would add all sorts of “harmful content” to blocking blacklists.

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