Russia Mulls Downloading Fines if Site Blocking Fails

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Faced with the possibility that website blocking may not achieve its goals, Russia is now considering fresh opportunities for decreasing online file-sharing. Sources familiar with negotiations say that authorities are mulling a system of fines which would target individual downloaders.

cashWell over a decade ago when peer-to-peer file-sharing was in its relative infancy, the RIAA thought it could stop piracy by punishing end users with ‘fines’ and lawsuits.

What followed was a punishing campaign that alienated consumers and ultimately failed to achieve its goals. Only subsequent widespread access to legitimate content proved to be effective in bringing piracy rates down.

But despite improved availability, piracy is alive and well, which means that groups all over the world continue to look for solutions to the problem. More innovation would be nice but Russian authorities appear to be looking into the past.

According to sources cited by Russian news publication RNS, the government is considering introducing a system of fines for Internet users who download copyrighted content without permission.

“It is expected that evidence of a download of an illegal movie, for example, will be shown by providing an IP address, then the offender will be sent the penalty fine,” a source familiar with the inter-agency consultations told the publication.

It’s understood that if ‘pirate’ site-blocking fails, authorities favor the kind of system that German Internet users are already subjected to, with fines up to 1000 euros per logged offense.

“If the initiative with blocking sites that publish illegal content does not work, will be discussing the German model,” the source said.

What isn’t known at this stage is who will be issuing the ‘fines’ or who will benefit from the revenue they create. What is clear, however, is that introducing this kind of system won’t be straightforward.

“There are two ways [to reduce piracy] – to block websites and penalize the user,” the source said. “The second option is effective, but we need to understand the social consequences.”

Reached for comment, Russia’s Ministry of Culture confirmed knowledge of the proposals but said that no formal consultations on how such a system might operate have yet been conducted.

The Ministry of Communications also admitted knowledge of the discussions but a spokesman urged caution.

“I’m not sure that it would be straightforward to implement [a system of fines] in Russia, but it is always the responsibility…of the person who posted the pirated content, and the one who deliberately consumes pirated content,” he said.

“The responsibility, in principle, should be [with these people]. How to implement a system in the Russian reality…that for sure requires a cautious and incremental process.”

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