After two years of work, Russia’s State Duma adopted new legislation aimed at cracking down on the spread of apps that breach copyright law.
After being signed by President Putin the law came into effect on October 1, 2020, the law places pressure on app developers and the pirate app ecosystem itself, rather than tackling illegal content directly.
In essence, the law compels mobile markets, such as Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and Huawei’s AppGallery, to take action to have allegedly infringing apps act legally following an official complaint. If not, such stores are required to prevent access to them and if that fails, local ISPs could be required to implement blocking measures.
Complaints Quickly Filed Against Apple and Google
As previously reported, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music and a division of Warner (SBA Music Publishing) wasted no time in filing applications for a preliminary injunction against Apple at the Moscow City Court in early October.
The complaints target three apps on the App Store that reportedly enable users to access music without paying for it – PewPee: Music Player, iMus Music Player, and Music Offline Music Download. Soon after, similar complaints were also filed by the companies against Google, targeting apps including Music Downloader – Free MP3 Downloader.
Moscow Court Hands Down First Order Under New Law
According to the statement of claim obtained by Russian publication Kommersant, SBA Music Publishing asked local telecoms Roscomndazor to prevent Google from “creating conditions” for the illegal distribution of three songs belonging to Russia pop act Cream Soda.
The application was successful and the Moscow City Court has now ordered Google to block access to the Music Downloader application. Representing the plaintiff, Roman Lukyanov of law firm Semenov & Pevzner told Kommersant that this is the first decision from the court relating to the blocking of applications that violate copyright law.
Potential Loophole In The Law
Given the time two years spent putting the new law together, many expected the framework to be watertight. However, according to Anatoly Semyonov, Chairman of the Committee on Intellectual Property and Creative Industries of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, there is a potential loophole.
Quite simply, if a pirated application later gets renamed, rightsholders will have to file a brand new application with the court to have it removed, meaning that at least in the short term, pirated apps could potentially evade blocking.
Nevertheless, following the order from the Moscow City Court, Google is now required to prevent access to the infringing app on Google Play or face action itself. In the event the app isn’t quickly removed, local ISPs could be instructed to block access to the software in the same way as they do pirate sites.
However, given correspondence from Google and Apple last month, in which they pledged to cooperate in removing pirate apps, that seems unlikely.