When Russia invaded and then annexed Crimea in 2014, Ukraine’s vision for the future would be challenged like never before. On its western borders lay peace, opportunity, and the European Union. To the east, war, regression, and Vladimir Putin.
Following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, even closer ties with the EU became a matter of national urgency for Ukraine. Despite widespread destruction and unimaginable loss of life, work to welcome Ukraine into Europe has somehow pressed ahead. Efforts to align Ukrainian law with EU norms face considerable challenges, but progress is being made.
Reforming media legislation is just part of Ukraine’s path to EU membership and during the summer, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed new legislation to update Ukraine’s advertising environment to standards required by the EU. After a three-month introductory period, the new rules will start being enforced early October, including measures that govern advertising on the internet.
Limiting Pirate Sites’ Ability to Generate Revenue
The amendments cover a wide range of issues from discrimination to product placement and beyond. The amendments relating to online advertising are considerable but of particular interest is a section that outlaws placement of advertising on pirate platforms, in clearly defined circumstances.
The reference to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concerns the WIPO Alert ‘blacklist’, a centrally-maintained database of piracy platforms nominated by rightsholders in participating countries. In Ukraine’s case, pirate sites and services are identified as part of the ‘Clear Sky‘ initiative and then added to a national blacklist.
Ukraine’s blacklist currently contains over 3,600 domains and is available for scrutiny in a public Google spreadsheet (here). Once forwarded to the WIPO Alert database, any included domains are subject to the advertising prohibition detailed in the new law.
Transparency on Eligibility
According to WIPO, participants in the WIPO Alert program provide information on the criteria and procedures that result in a domain appearing on their respective national blacklists before being placed on WIPO Alert. Ukraine’s legal amendments explain as follows:
The central executive body, which ensures the formation and implementation of the state policy in the field of intellectual property, determines the procedure for the formation, maintenance of the national list and consideration of applications for the inclusion of a website in the national list, informs the World Intellectual Property Organization of the information from the said national list and also publishes the national list on its official website.
The website is included in the national list based on the results of consideration of the application of the subject of copyright or the subject of related rights…which is submitted on behalf of the applicant by his representative – a lawyer or a representative in intellectual property matters…providing adequate evidence that the website owner has, within the last 365 days, committed:
three or more violations of intellectual property rights that have not been remedied by the website owner as of the date of submission of such appeal; or
two or more violations of intellectual property rights, which were registered by the applicant before the date of such appeal, and at the same time there is a failure to comply with the requirements of the eleventh part of Article 56 of the Law of Ukraine On Copyright and Related Rights.
Video sharing sites, media platforms and other services registered in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On Media” cannot be included in Ukraine’s national advertising blacklist.
Ukraine Beats Most of the EU
While Ukraine has received widespread criticism for unaddressed and at times rampant online copyright infringement, its participation in WIPO Alert puts it ahead of nearly all EU member states.
Italy participates in the program through telecoms regulator AGCOM, Lithuania through its Radio and Television Commission, and Spain through departments under the Ministry of Culture. No other EU country participates, despite having similar ‘pirate’ blacklists of their own.
Ukraine is not yet listed as a participant in the WIPO Alert program, at least according to current WIPO information. Whether its inclusion will have a significant or indeed any effect on pirate sites’ ability to generate revenue is unknown. At least in part, Ukraine hopes to remove or at least reduce the prevalence of gambling advertising on local pirate sites, but the odds of success probably aren’t great.