In 2018, leading media companies and distributors plus Yandex, Rambler Group, Mail.Ru Group, vKontakte, and RuTube signed up to a landmark anti-piracy memorandum in Russia.
Given that search engines are often blamed for sending people to pirate sites in response to searches for content, the agreement struck at the heart of the issue by having links to pirated content removed from indexes before they could be widely propagated.
This was achieved by the creation of a centralized database of allegedly-infringing content that is now regularly queried by Internet platforms so that delistings can take place automatically. In March 2020, participating rightsholders said they were pleased with the way the deletion system was progressing. Other rightsholders, however, claimed that they were not being given the same opportunities to fight piracy.
The publishing industry has been particularly vocal but changes are now on the horizon that could put other copyright holders on a similar footing.
Draft Law Submitted to Russia’s Parliament
This week, a new bill authored by Sergei Boyarsky, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications, was submitted to the State Duma. It aims to expand and write into law the existing anti-piracy system, so that a broader range of rightsholders can be included.
“Implementation of the provisions provided for by the draft federal law will allow us, taking into account the accumulated experience, to consolidate a new mechanism for the protection of copyright and related rights, make it accessible to a wider circle of copyright holders, provide them with equal conditions for access to the protection of their rights, as well as to extend the obligation to stop issuing links to works illegally posted on the Internet in Russia’s search engines,” Boyarsky’s draft bill reads.
The aim is to expand the scope and use of the existing database and continue to require search engines to interface with it, as per the voluntary system. The database will include information about copyrighted content, supplied by a wider range of rightsholders, that will enable search engines to quickly identify allegedly infringing content.
“Search engine operators must stop listing in search results the indexes of the pages contained in the information system not later than six hours from the moment the information about the pointers is included in its pages,” Boyarsky notes.
“This period for taking measures has been tested in practice and is due to the fact that the owners of illegal Internet resources are trying to track blocked links and automatically generate duplicate indexes of pages for their inclusion in search results.”
Measures to Mitigate Wrongful Deletion
In common with all systems worldwide to remove allegedly infringing content, mistakes are likely to be made in the Russian system too. The proposed law doesn’t seek to directly prevent these from happening but does provide a mechanism for site owners to complain, if their pages are wrongfully removed from search results.
Should an error take place, site owners will be given the right to send a complaint to those operating the takedown database. After providing evidence that their site is allowed to carry the content in question, it will be removed from the database and search engines will be required to reinstate the pages in their search results, again within six hours.
On the question of liability should things go wrong, the draft law states that search engines shall not be liable to copyright holders or users if access to legal information is restricted.
If passed, the new law will enter into force on December 1, 2021.