Russian ‘SOPA’ Anti-Piracy Body Under Investigation For Software Piracy

If the launch this week of Russia's new tough anti-piracy law wasn't enough to ignite controversy, fresh revelations concerning the official body tasked with administering the scheme should hit the spot. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media says it will now carry out a full internal audit after pirated software from Adobe, Microsoft, Corel and Autodesk was found on their machines.

microsoft-pirateThe introduction this week of Russia’s new anti-piracy law was greeted by rightsholders in the movie and TV show industry but few others had reason to celebrate.

Internet users and website owners large and small are concerned by the law’s provisions and music and other rightsholders aren’t yet protected by the legislation.

The first target was social-networking giant vKontakte, who were reported to the courts by an art-house movie distributor as soon as the law went live. However, the company failed to provide the correct documents to prove that they own the movies in question and the case was rejected.

And now, just two days into the scheme, there is controversy surrounding the government body charged with the law’s implementation.

Among other tasks the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roscomnadzor) will maintain a piracy site blacklist which was launched yesterday along with the new anti-piracy law. However, Roscomnadzor has now been forced to acknowledge that the watchdog itself may not be entirely innocent when it comes to copyright infringement.

The problems date back to July 9, 2013 when a technology audit at Roscomnadzor offices led officers from the Economic Crime unit and the Interior Ministry to seize five computers suspected of containing unlicensed software.

According to preliminary information from local law enforcement agencies, two of the seized computers contained unlicensed copies of Photoshop but apparently the problems don’t stop there as unlicensed software from Microsoft, Corel and Autodesk was also found.

“Further investigation carried out by the management has shown that [the software] was installed several years ago by employees who do not work as management. Currently the option of self-installation of software is excluded,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

Speaking with CNews, lawyer Natalia Kalin who works protecting the rights of Adobe in Russia, said that if it’s decided that the damages caused by the unlicensed software exceeds 100,000 rubles ($3,020), those responsible could be held criminally liable and face up to two years in prison.

Roskomnadzor notes, however, that it is yet to receive official confirmation that it used unlicensed software but once that arrives it will remedy the violations and punish those responsible.

The news that the agency tasked with administering Russia’s anti-piracy law is itself guilty of piracy will be particularly unwelcome, so expect the authorities to live up to their promise of holding people accountable.

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