Russia Adopts Law to Block Pirate Apps and if Necessary, App Stores Too

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Russia's State Duma has adopted new legislation that will enable copyright holders to take far-reaching action against apps facilitating access to pirated content. If the owners of the apps themselves fail to take action, the new legislation will compel services such as Google Play and Apple's App Store to remove the tools or find themselves blocked by local ISPs.

Pirate AppleAs torrent indexes and streaming portals continue to provide access to copyrighted content, there has also been a considerable increase in the availability of software applications that facilitate access to movies, TV shows and similar content.

These tools, which can be installed with minimal effort, often act as aggregators of content and presenting it in easy-to-use interfaces on mobile phones, tablets and similar devices. While the sources for this content can be handled with traditional takedown and blocking mechanisms, authorities in Russia have been seeking to take direct action against the apps themselves.

Following its third reading, Russia’s State Duma adopted new legislative amendments yesterday that will allow them to do just that.

How the New Law to Tackle Piracy Within Apps Will Work

After receiving a complaint from a copyright holder, local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadazor will have 72 hours to determine where the allegedly-infringing application is being hosted. This might typically be an official repository such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store but could also be a third-party distributor or website offering a similar service or functionality.

Roscomnadzor will then send an infringement notice to the platform informing it of the alleged violation while highlighting a requirement to limit the availability of the content identified in the notice. The app distribution platform will then have 24 hours following the receipt of the complaint to notify the application’s owner that an infringement complaint has been filed.

Within 24 hours of the developer being made aware of the details of the complaint, they will be required to prevent the specified content from being made available in their application. If they do not comply, the responsibility to prevent ongoing infringement will then fall back on the app distribution platforms themselves, requiring them to stop distributing the entire application.

In the event that the application distributor fails to take the mandated removal or blocking steps, Roscomnadzor will then be able to issue an instruction to have the distributor itself blocked by all Internet service providers in Russia, thereby preventing consumers from having access to the platform in its entirety.

“If the owner of the information resource [Google Play, Apple’s App Store] has not limited access to the software application, the information necessary for taking measures to restrict access to the software application is sent to telecom operators,” an announcement from the State Duma reads.

Last-Ditch Efforts to Soften the Law Were Ignored

In the original draft of the legislation, responsibility for blocking access to pirated content was limited to the developers/operators of the allegedly-infringing applications themselves. However, subsequent amendments expanded liability to application distribution platforms too.

Several trade groups made last-minute appeals to the State Duma requesting that measures to block distribution platforms be removed from the legislation but their calls went unheeded. As a result, there are now fears that key app distribution players could be negatively affected by the measures due to additional requirements to monitor for the alleged infringements of third-parties.

After two years in the making, the new law will be signed by President Vladimir Putin and into force on October 1, 2020.

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