The amendments the Federal Law On Making Amendments to Some Laws of the Russian Federation on the Matters of Protection of Intellectual Rights in Information-Telecommunication Networks, also known as the Anti-pirate law, will enter into force on May 1st 2015. The Law will now cover not only video but also all the copyrighted content (software, music, books, etc.) with the exception of photo images. This Law grants law enforcement the ability to permanently block any website that posts illegal content has twice lost a lawsuit with the copyright holder.
The amendments to the Law were made in November 2014 while the Law itself entered into force August 2013.
Generally, the Anti-pirate law was the source of arguments and criticism by Internet users and the media-community alike. IT specialist Dmitry Zaitsev argued in June 2013 that this law would be counterproductive, as the intended measures would be archaic and the methods to be used by the Government would be superficial. Importantly, piracy in Russia, in Zaitsev’s opinion, is often caused the result of a shortage of accessible goods.
“One downloads movies not just because he or she wants to make damage to, say, the movie director. It just happens that a resident of a far-away town in Siberia has Internet access but no store with copyrighted disks in his/her community. When everyone has an opportunity to legally watch movies, then you can start punishing transgressors.”
The Head of the College of New Media and Communication Theory of the Moscow State University, journalist Ivan Zasursky calls the new piece of legislation “lobbied” and thinks that it brings threat to Russian film industry. The Russian viewer will now get even more far away from its products. Mosfilm uploaded its movie archive online making it open seemingly to avoid such probability. More than 500 movies are now available for free download to replace torrents.
Some see trespassing of citizens’ constitutional rights in the new Law. Expert in copyright law, Elena Sherstoboeva believes it may be used for censorship and as a matter of fact is illegitimate. “Moscow City Court may now rule some interim measures based only on the demands of the owners of content without standard discussions and not depending on territorial jurisdiction. And this contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation directly”, — says she.
Though the majority of the major content owners support the Law, the law has not necessarily stopped online piracy. For example, Best Screenplay winner at the Cannes Film Festival Leviathan found its way online before the official premiere.
The leading publishing houses also would not feel more protected. The board of ACT publishing house has not yet seen any significant difference to be: “We used to come across several cases of our translations freely available online. We use the services of the Association to Protect Copyright in Internet (APCI), but the volumes are just overwhelming and one would not be able to track everything” – says a source in the publishing house. Nevertheless there some positive developments. Eksmo publishing house reports: “One could hardly find book by our top authors in Internet to download”.
Problematically, the Moscow City Court has jurisdiction over all cases brought before the court, a questionable approach since piracy is spread all over Russia. Besides this leaving all the Internet piracy cases to the Moscow Court may overburden it and slow down trials and implementing protective measures.
The Law affects the average Internet user only indirectly: downloading pirated content is not considered illegal in Russia, thought there were proposals to fine users for doing so. The users might be found using their IP addresses. Foreign countries practice different approaches and many states have introduced legal responsibility for downloading and watching illegal content. In Japan, for instance it is punishable by two years in prison or two million yen fine, approximately 16,000 USD.
The situation with piracy in Russia is caused not by lack of responsibility for use of illegal content but by the fact that often users may not say illegal content from legal. According to survey by Public Opinion Foundation (POF), some 63% of Russians have difficulties defining legal content. For many of them the main criterion is fee for using the content but in reality, they may come across a careless intermediary.
The users who are afraid they may unintentionally use illegal content there is a register of sites containing illegal content. One has to check the site’s IP-address, domain name or URL.
The inefficacy of the new Law may also be the result of some difficulties to block illegal content. Access to illegal content on any site may be blocked using IP, DNS or URL. IP blocking is most widespread because it is most simle and cheap. But there may be thousand sites using the same IP address, and this makes suffer other fair sites when one breaking the law is punished. Such side effect blocking have already caused troubles to services like Google, Yandex, Lurkmore and even personal blog by Tina Kandelaki, Russian journalist and TV host. Besides this, pirates would easily change site’s IP address or would start using secure access.
A site may also be blocked using DNS, its domain name in Internet. When a user types in the lettered name of the site, the DNS server defines the IPO address and directs the user to the required web page. Blocking such a server prevents accessing the site and allows to inform a user that the page is inaccessible. Contrary to IP blocking this method makes it possible to block the one needed site only.
URL blocking is the most effective way as blocks the exact web page, but has its own limitations. It can only block unencrypted addresses, those that operate with an HTTP connection. If as site uses HTTPS, an encrypted protocol, URL blocking will not work. URL blocking is also the most expensive form of content control, and not all providers can bear the costs of widespread implementation.
Thus, though the amendments are appropriate and directed at copyright protection, it is not clear whether they would be of any use. When the Law itself is not effective enough, the novelties may be out of use for the content owners since the issue of effective blocking of illegal content remains unsolved. The legislators might think of using the help from IT specialists who might come across with some new solutions, which would make the Law work thus solving the problem of piracy in Russia.