Russia Drafts Legislation to Remove Pirate Sites From Search Engines

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The Russian government has passed draft legislation to parliament which would compel companies such as Google and local giant Yandex to remove pirate sites from search results. If the law is passed, sites that fail to respond to takedown notices will be the initial targets.

Copyright holders all over the world believe that search engines play a crucial role in the piracy ecosystem. They argue that when seeking out content, people often use sites like Google, which can lead them to infringing material on pirate sites.

Entertainment companies can address the problem by sending takedown notices, but they insist that’s a very inefficient process. Pirate content is way too visible in search results, they argue, particularly when it appears in the first few pages of results.

With most countries continuing to grapple with the issue, it now appears that Russia intends to legislate against it. This week, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev submitted a draft bill to parliament that will force search engines to remove specified pirate sites from their results.

Developed by the Ministry of Communications, the bill will compel search companies such as Google and local giant Yandex to deindex sites that have failed to respond to takedown requests on several occasions, perhaps as little as twice.

One such example is huge torrent site RuTracker, which was blocked by local ISPs following an order from the Moscow City Court. RuTracker was effectively told to remove around 320,000 torrents to avoid a ban but chose not to do so after running a poll among its users. Under current legislation, RuTracker is now blocked for life, and if the new law is passed, all of its pages will disappear from search engines.

The draft bill also targets counter-measures employed by sites attempting to circumvent ISP blockades.

Often, when one domain is blocked, sites will buy new domains in an effort to keep going. Others will use proxy sites and even full-scale mirrors to stay one step ahead of the court. The bill refers to all of these options as “derivative sites” and will allow for them to be blocked without further court process.

The bill was approved during a government meeting on February 17 and will now pass through its various parliamentary stages before becoming law.

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