In the early days of 2013 it became clear that after years of wavering, Russia was finally going to get tough on Internet piracy. Despite outcry from Internet giants such as Google, and Yandex, the country’s largest search engine, the government pressed ahead with its plans.
On August 1, 2013, a new law was passed which would allow sites to be blocked at the ISP level if they failed to respond to copyright infringement complaints in a timely fashion. But despite the legislative teeth, file-sharing sites were not blocked, with many simply complying with takedown demands as required by law.
In January 2014, however, the government said that the law was actually having the required effect, with the number of Internet users purchasing legal content going up by 30%. But at the same time there were complaints.
The founder of IVI.ru, the country’s leading source of Hollywood-licensed video, said that his company had not benefited from the law. And now it seems that the law’s lack of success is being admitted be people right at the top – the very, very top.
During a meeting with members of the House of the Federation Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the legislation introduced in August 2013 had failed to meet its objectives.
“This is an extremely important area, and we still have very much to do here,” he told the meeting.
“Even after we have adopted these solutions for intellectual property protection in the field of cinema, recent analysis has shown that it does not work as effectively as we expected.”
Putin added that despite the new law, pirate movies can appear on websites anywhere and completely undermine the framework.
“The effect is that all of our protection is reduced to zero,” the President said.
But even though things aren’t working, there are no signs of any retreat. Instead the Russian government is looking to get even more aggressive.
“It is necessary to consider additional steps to protect intellectual property rights,” Putin concluded.
Work is already underway to expand the current legislation to encompass all content since right now only video is protected. The government is also looking at introducing fines for errant hosting providers and wants to find a way to permanently close sites persistently engaging in piracy.
“Sites engaging in piracy professionally (it’s their business) should be closed,” said Vladimir Medina of the Ministry of Culture.
But the idea that closing sites will solve the problem was dismissed by a representative from the body in control of .ru domains. Noting that she is reminded of the “Streisand Effect”, where suppressed information only leads to wider dissemination, Olga Alexandrova-Massine said people will find a way to access blocked content.