Russia Anti-Piracy Agreement Renews, Moves Towards Expansion

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After being signed by some of Russia's most powerful tech and entertainment companies in 2018, their landmark anti-piracy agreement was set to expire at the end of this month. According to telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, all parties have now reached an agreement to continue until at least the end of August, with expansion also on the horizon.

DeletePirated content appearing online has been a thorn in the side of copyright holders for more than two decades and there are regular cries for Internet platforms to do more to help.

Companies like Google and Bing say they do what they can by removing infringing links from their search indexes on request, with actual content deleted from video platforms including YouTube on the same basis under the DMCA. In Russia, there is a different legal framework so entertainment companies worked with search giant Yandex and a number of other major players to arrive at a voluntary agreement to remove content.

Signed in 2018, the Memorandum of Cooperation represented a big shift in the way infringing content was handled. Following the creation of a centralized database of pirated content, the Internet companies agreed to query it every few minutes in order to remove corresponding content from their platforms.

Agreement Results in Millions of Takedowns

Local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor played a key role in bringing the parties together and has been keeping a close eye on progress since. This week the government agency declared the mechanism “an effect tool for copyright protection”, revealing that Yandex alone has removed at least 11.7 million links to pirated content from its search results as part of the program.

Given the reported success of the scheme, rightsholders are keen for the good work to continue. However, after receiving an extension in October 2019 and again since, the memorandum was due to expire at the end of this month.

Parties Agree To Another Six-Month Extension

With the January 31 deadline looming, yesterday Roscomnadzor confirmed that the parties have agreed to a six-month extension.

“Representatives of copyright holders, video hosting owners and search engine operators have extended the Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of exclusive rights protection until August 1, 2021,” the agency reported.

“According to the Memorandum, a register of links to pirated content has been created, which is maintained by the Media Communications Union. Search engines are required to check the registry every five minutes and remove links that appear in it within six hours. The registrar verifies the validity of the links sent by the copyright holders,” Roscomnadzor added, confirming no change to the current system.

Memorandum Signatories Set To Expand

Ever since the memorandum came into force, rightsholders that were not party to the agreement have complained that they should be able to access the same anti-piracy tools as their counterparts. Publishers and their anti-piracy partners have been particularly vocal, complaining that the memorandum favors players in the video industry.

During a meeting in December, Maksut Shadayev of the Ministry of Digital Development received a request for publishers to be included in the memorandum and indeed the draft legislation based on it, when it is eventually passed into law.

This week, the proposed expansion of the takedown program appeared to move a step closer when Roscomnadzor confirmed that when the bill is passed, it will enable copyright holders who were previously excluded to take part.

“Alongside the development of the Memorandum, a draft law has been developed at the site of the Media Communication Union, which is currently being discussed with the participation of representatives of the industry community,” the telecoms watchdog said.

“With the adoption of the bill, the mechanisms of combating pirated content worked out during the Memorandum’s validity will be extended to companies that have not signed this document.”

Internet Companies Welcome Expansion

In comments to Vedomosti this week, memorandum signatories Yandex and Rambler Group said they have no opposition to additional rightsholders becoming involved.

Yandex said the best solution would be to quickly develop and pass a law based on the agreement, which would benefit the company since it too is a copyright holder. Mail.ru, another major player in the current agreement, declined to comment.

The current memorandum participants are as follows:

JSC “Channel One”
FSUE “VGTRK”
STS Media
JSC Gazprom-Media Holding
JSC National Media Group
Association of Film and Television Producers
Association “Internet Video”
Yandex LLC
Mail.ru Group
Rambler Group
LLC GPM Partner
LLC “Roform”
LLC “Kinopoisk”
Animated Film Association

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