Google and Leading Web Firms Get Their Way in Online Piracy Dispute

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Last year some of Russia's leading web firms including Google and Vkontakte wrote an open letter to the entertainment industries telling them to back off on claims they are responsible for file-sharing committed by their users. Now Russia's Communications Minister has announced that the big web companies will have their way, with actual infringers taking responsibility for their own actions.

google pirateFor the past several months the international entertainment industries, desperate to stop the illicit sharing of their movies and music, have increasingly insisted that Russian web companies should keep their systems free from copyright works, if necessary by employing teams of people to do so.

The focus of this attention has fallen on some of the country’s biggest web companies – Google, mail service Mail.ru, social networking site Vkontakte (which was named by the RIAA as one of the world’s most notorious ‘pirate markets’ for illicit music), and search engines Yandex and Rambler.

Via an open letter to both the entertainment industries and lawmakers last year, the five companies insisted that it is impossible for them to monitor millions of users to ensure their every act is legal. Furthermore, it is the actual infringers who should be held liable for their own copyright breaches, the companies said.

Now, according to a statement by Russian Communications and Press Minister Igor Shchyogolev reported by Vedomosti, it appears these web giants will have their way.

In future, Internet users – not service providers, will be held accountable for making available copyright infringing media.

While Google welcomed the announcement, it and other web companies won’t be completely absolved of responsibility when it comes to infringing material held on their servers.

While placing the main burden on the shoulders of the main infringers, Shchyogolev reminded web firms that they too have responsibility and must remove content from their servers once they are advised by copyright holders it is unauthorized.

This manoeuvring on liability by both the entertainment industries and service providers is an attempt to influence a bill currently being drafted by Russia’s communications ministry. The bill will regulate intellectual property rights disputes on the Internet which are often perceived as operating in something of a legislative vacuum. But not everyone welcomes the change.

“It is not up to the communications ministry to regulate intellectual property rights,” said Irina Tulubyeva, IP lawyer and head of the Russian Organization for Intellectual Property Rights.

Tulubyeva says that while protecting service providers, the law will damage the interests of rightsholders and hold the average Internet user to blame, all while the big web companies continue to make advertising money.

“With this new law, piracy will reign,” Tulubyeva said.

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