Just over two months ago Russia made some of its strongest steps yet against online piracy by introducing a formal system for rightsholders to have unauthorized content, or links to content, taken offline.
The system, dubbed Russia’s SOPA, forces sites to comply with copyright complaints in a swift manner or face their domains being added to a national blacklist. Being added to that register is a serious business, since all local ISPs are expected to blacklist corresponding IP addresses so that local Internet users cannot gain access.
Proposals put forward last month upped the ante again, with any service provider or search engine not blocking sites on the blacklist potentially facing fines of around $30,000.
But according to comments coming out of the Government yesterday, Russia appears to be taking its anti-piracy initiative to the next level and beyond, fully living up to its ‘SOPA’ billing.
Ministry of Communications deputy head Alexei Volin said that Russia now intends to compartmentalize sites that are dedicated to piracy. They will be treated completely differently from other sites, such as YouTube etc, who may have an infringement problem but respond to copyright holders positively.
“There are a conscientious and diligent owners of websites, to which some people upload illegal or dangerous content. When it comes to this sort of thing, we order blocks of URLs and individual pages,” Volin said.
“However, there are some specialized and entirely pornographic sites that are entirely blocked by IP address. The same principle will be observed in respect of torrents and sites engaged in outright piracy,” the minister added.
“We will not block them for some particular things, we’ll close them entirely by IP address,” Volin said.
According to the minister there are around 160 local sites, ten of them very popular, that are causing serious concerns for the entertainment industries. Dealing with these, he says, can be a positive for the economy.
“There are [around 8 million] people who pay money for the legal content that they get on the Internet. These are the users who are one of the growth drivers of the Internet economy,” Volin said, adding that even pirates will spend when the circumstances are right.
“People on the Internet are willing to pay, especially when the content is useful, available and at a fair price,” he concludes.
Right at this moment it is unclear how the system will be implemented and on what basis. Presumably some kind of ‘pirate’ list already exists but whether sites will be blocked without further discussion or will have to fall foul of future complaints is not known.
Whatever the outcome, sites like RuTracker.org will probably be a priority target, despite claims from the site’s operators that they comply with takedown requests.
The site has around 13.4 million registered users, 3.5 million of them active in the past year. It hosts close to 1.5 million torrent files and is currently the 14th most-popular site in Russia. It’s proven resilient so far and last month celebrated its 9th birthday, but only time will tell what the future holds.