Russia Claims Ukraine & Allies Use Pirate Sites to Spread Propaganda

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A Russian security company is reporting a surge in movie and TV show-related domain registrations. Some believe that pirates are buying domains to exploit an upcoming gap in the market when Hollywood licenses expire at the end of the month. Telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor claims that Ukraine and its allies are running pirate sites for propaganda purposes.

hollyukraine1From February 28, 2023, availability of Western content on Russia’s legal streaming portals is set to nosedive.

Following the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, new video content produced by major Western companies mostly disappeared from Russian cinemas and online platforms. Older content covered by existing licensing agreements remained in place, but in a matter of days, many of those deals will run out.

Local reports suggest that at least 200 films owned by Disney, Sony, and other Hollywood studios, will disappear from licensed streaming platforms, including market leader Kinopoisk.

Against that background, experts suggest that Kinopoisk’s customers will migrate to illegal sites offering everything for free. Local cybersecurity companies believe that preparations are already underway to meet the demand.

Domain Name Registrations Surge

According to Russian cybersecurity firm Angara Security, registrations of domain names with a movie or TV show theme began to surge at the start of the month. The company says that between February 1 and February 10 alone, registrations were up 64% on similar registrations for the whole of January.

“According to our data, the vast majority of newly created sites belong to pirates. Such activity is due to the fact that attackers closely follow the content agenda and use it for their own purposes,” Angara Security’s Victoria Varlamova informed IZ this week.

Less Legal Content, More Pirates, Even More Pirate Sites

Asked to comment on the reported surge, Cybersecurity firm R-Vision was more specific. The company linked increasing numbers of pirate sites directly to sanctions and reduced access to licensed content.

“Indeed, against the backdrop of sanctions restrictions, there has recently been an increase in the number of pirated sites with films and series, as more and more popular foreign content is removed from legal online cinemas,” said R-Vision’s Petr Kutsenko.

None of the opinions expressed thus far are particularly unusual. While we were unable to confirm excess ‘pirate’ domain registrations in early February, domains registered over the past 48 hours alone include large numbers of instantly recognizable ‘pirate’ brands on a wide range of TLDs.

Due to search engine demotions, site-blocking and other anti-piracy measures, that in itself is not particularly unusual. Pirates are burning through domains at an unprecedented rate and it’s entirely feasible that some have spotted an opportunity and intend to exploit it.

The Russian government says it’s all part of a Western conspiracy.

Roskomnadzor Blames Ukraine & Other ‘Unfriendly Countries’

Those who initially reported the domain registration surge placed the blame on generic pirates but went no further than that. Russian telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor had much more to say.

“The creation and popularization of such pirated video services among the Russian audience is carried out from the territory of Ukraine with the support of a number of unfriendly countries, from which claims have ceased to be received regarding violation of their copyrights when distributing content,” the department told Izvestia.


The claim that some people in Ukraine are involved in pirate sites hardly comes as a huge shock; it’s been common knowledge for at least 20 years. But the suggestion that Ukraine is colluding with Western allies to push pirated content to Russian audiences via pirate sites, because rightsholders have stopped sending copyright complaints for violations in Russia? Less plausible.

Pirate Propaganda

Since Russian pirates are perfectly capable of serving local audiences without foreign assistance, it’s unclear what unfriendly pirates could achieve in Russia. But Roskomnadzor has its own theory, one that goes far beyond streaming illicit movies and TV shows. According to the telecoms watchdog, Western-supported pirate sites, run from the territory of Ukraine, play a role in the war.

As reported by Izvestia, Roskomnadzor claims that these pirate sites are “purposefully used for anti-Russian propaganda and dissemination of fake materials” relating to the situation in Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor says that since February 2022, more than 4,000 of these “pirate internet resources” have been blocked by ISPs for “distributing advertising banners with fake materials about a special military operation.”

For rightsholders running short of ideas on the anti-piracy front, site-blocking opportunities don’t come any easier than that.


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