Google Opposes Russia’s ‘SOPA’ as Blocking Legislation Passes First Hurdle

Tough new anti-piracy legislation that allows for sites to be quickly blocked by ISPs following allegations of copyright infringement has been passed by Russia's State Duma. Opposition to the bill has been growing, not only from regular Internet users but tech giants including Google, who are alarmed that domains could be censored without the intervention of the courts.

google-russiaRussia has long struggled with its reputation as being soft on piracy.

Unauthorized websites offering all types of media are perceived as operating with impunity which has led to the country being chastised by foreign rightsholders, particularly those from the United States.

In response, Russia has delivered a draft bill detailing the most draconian anti-piracy legislation seen since the demise of the Stop Online Piracy Act. The proposed law is so tough it’s no surprise that critics are labeling it Russia’s SOPA.

One of the main concerns is how the law places site owners in a vulnerable position should copyright-infringing material be found on their services.

The draft envisions copyright holders filing lawsuits against sites carrying infringing content. Site owners are then expected to remove unauthorized content or links to the same within 72 hours. Failure to do so would result in the entire site being blocked by Internet service providers pending the outcome of a court hearing.

“The greatest harm to the Internet – and to hosts, site owners, advertisers and a huge number of legal resources – can be brought about by IP address blocking as it is currently incorporated in the bill,” said Google Russia’s Communication Director Marina Zhunich.

Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, is also worried by the bill. The company said that only infringing content should be targeted and whole-site blocking should be kept as a last resort should site operators refuse to comply.

Adding to the problems is the language employed by the bill in respect of takedowns.

Under the DMCA a site or service has to remove content once a rightsholder sends a notice containing a precise URL of the infringing content. Under the proposed Russian law no such clarity is required – the name of the artist/creator and the content’s name will suffice, meaning that it is down to service providers to discover the locations for themselves.

“A situation in which an information intermediary is obliged to search his resource for an illegal object among the vast array of data being uploaded every minute is fraught with paralysis of the resource and, as a consequence, can hurt those owners who use this site to earn,” Zhunich said.

The bill, which required 226 votes for approval, received the backing of 257 lawmakers in the State Duma on Friday. Two more readings are required for it to move on. Many tech companies, Google included, hope that amendments can be introduced before it does.

“Google has shared the concerns voiced by other members of the industry, and presented its amendments to the bill. We are convinced that a compromise of the law will benefit all participants, the Internet industry and the content industry, as well as honest users,” Zhunich concludes.

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