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Law on curbing Internet piracy about to take effect

July 31, 2013, 18:33 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, July 31 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Internet audiences who have gotten accustomed to watching an abundance of movies of their choice in the Internet for free will have to keep their avid appetites in check as of August 1 - the date on which a highly resounding law on the rights of movie and video recordings producers takes legal effect.

The so-called antipiracy law enables the operators to block the Internet resources that illegally upload movies or provide the information on how they can be obtained.

Market players offered a highly variegated reaction to the law. While most owners of the copyrights supported it, the Internet community members leveled sharp criticism at it. Opponents of the law say it will offer broad opportunities for abuses.

Political opposition says the genuine objective of the law is to tighten the authorities’ control over the Internet - the law makes it possible to block a website displeasing the government if the comments at it contain at least one reference to an illegal video.

The law says owners of copyrights will have an opportunity to demand elimination or blocking of webpage as a pre-court measure if they think their intellectual property rights have been violated.

Should the owner of a website refuse to do so, the telecommunications and media watchdog agency Roskomnadzor may instruct the Internet provider to do the blocking. Providers will have the power to decide on their own whether they should block access to just one material or to the website on the whole.

Moscow City Court has been appointed to act as an arbiter in the litigations related to copyrights.

The law was adopted in the rush-job manner without detailed discussions and its final version looks like an act on grating privileges to lobbyists, the Vedomosti daily says. A selective law that pursues self-serving goals will scarcely enable anyone to fully block access to the unlicensed contact in the Internet, or the Moscow City Court will be paralyzed by an avalanche of lawsuits.

The problem is that the new law can complicate the lives of website owners and regular users, the newspaper says.

July 28, public activists discontent with the antipiracy law held meetings in Moscow and St Petersburg and an Internet strike has been scheduled for August 1, the day on which the law goes into legal force. About 1,600 resources have already made known their plans to take part in this virtual action.

The idea of holding it belongs to Roskomsvoboda website - a project launched by the Pirates Party of Russia. Specifically, it urged the public “to organize an Internet strike on the day the odious law takes effect and to show bluntly what kind of an Internet Russia may have in the future. Just put a black plug on your website and add an explanatory text to it.”

Russian Internet companies have subjected the law to sharp criticism. An open address to lawmakers with a request to revise the most recent amendments was undersigned by Group, Yandex, Google Russia,, the Russian Association for Electronic Communications, the Fund for Facilitation of Development of Internet Technologies and Infrastructure, and some others.

Representatives of the Internet industry are confident that the law will have a highly adverse impact not only on the pirates but also on the copyrights owners. “The act opens up broad vistas for abuses and the practices of unscrupulous competition,” the appeal said. “International experience gained by the countries where similar mechanisms of suppressing illegal content exist shows that almost a half of requests /for blocking the resources that ostensibly contain unlicensed content - Itar-Tass/ are filed by contenders of legal Internet services.”

Experts collaborating with the Association for Electronic Communications say the law does not take account of the opportunities to utilize the objects of copyright legally without licenses from rights holders. This omission may bring havoc to general schools, universities, libraries, and museums.

Opponents of the law call it a Russian strain of SOPA /Stop Online Piracy Act/ that has been turned down in the U.S. “On our part, we call it a law on arbitrary blocking,” Atryov Kozlyuk, the chief of Roskomsvoboda project told the RBC daily.

“This law envisions the blocking of a whole website instead of separate materials on direct references and this means Roskomnadzor can block any material uploaded by a user of the site,” he said.

Kozlyuk plans gathering more than 100,000 signatures under the petition at the website of the Russian Public Initiative portal that was created upon the Russian President’s decree specially for the purpose of helping the government to pick up initiatives from the public and ensuring support for them from authorized Internet users.

However, those who have trust in the benefits of the law if confined to movies only are many in number, too, and especially among the rights holders.

“The apparent weakness of the law lies in its applicability to movies only,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta quoted Leonid Agronov, the President of the National Federation of the Music Industry.

“Music, books, magazine articles, photos, software products, and many others things need active protection as well,” he said. “Business made on stolen contents has climbed to unimaginable heights and it immediately puts the existence of respective industries in danger.”

Agronov said with confidence that responsibility should be borne by the people who have turned the spread of illegal contents into a moneymaking business.

“Out of all the players of the Internet market, it is the websites that have made contents the backbone of their business operations. A pirate site will cease to exist if you remove the content from it.”

“There are no users and no advertisers with their budgets absent the content,” Agronov said.

In the meantime, the State Duma plans taking up the problem of antipiracy measures once again in the autumn. In part, it will consider a bill that will proliferate the effects of the current law to all the audiovisual and software products.

A bill introducing penalties of up to a million rubles /USD 1=RUB 32.5/ for Internet providers for refusals to remove the pirate contents has been submitted to the Duma. It also specifies penalties of 5,000 rubles for private individuals, 50,000 rubles for government officials, and 300,000 to 1,000,000 rubles for legal entities.