Russia Wants New Fines For Platforms That Don’t Remove Pirated Content Fast Enough

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Russia's Ministry of Culture has plans to further tighten up the country's response to the availability of pirated content online. Under current law, platforms can be ordered by a court to block or remove content within three days but according to the government, that needs to be reduced. Furthermore, non-responsive players should also receive new fines but to what extent remains unclear.

Given Russia’s historically weak response to the availability of pirated content online, the past seven years have seen a dramatic turnaround.

While the laws of the United States, Russia’s most vocal critic, have remained largely static, Russia implemented new anti-piracy legislation in 2013 and has continually updated it. One of its major weapons is an expedited process to force platforms to remove content or face permanent blocking by ISPs.

Under the current system and following a request by copyright holders, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor can order platforms and hosts to remove or block access to pirated content. This action must be taken three days after a related court process and can result in fines of 700,000 rubles (US$9,240) or up to 3,000,000 rubles (US$39,600) for repeat offenders. However, some targets are not responsive enough, or responsive at all, so the government plans to make that a more costly option.

According to a regulation filing spotted by Kommersant, the Ministry of Culture wants to address these issues with amendments to the law. The bills, precise details of which are yet to be revealed by the government, are tweaks to the Code of Administrative Offenses. They propose new fines for failure to comply with the instructions of Roscomnadzor to remove content and a reduction of the window of opportunity to remove content following a request.

In comments made by a representative from the Ministry, Russia’s anti-piracy legislation needs to be tightened up, with the department citing the length of the legal procedure to have content blocked as a concern. The issue of extrajudicial processes against anonymous site owners will also need to be addressed, since by their very nature they tend to be less responsive. Kommersant sources describe violations following Roscomnadzor’s orders as “frequent”.

At this stage there is no detail on the scale of any new fines, nor is the government providing an indication on how quickly content should be removed in the future. Furthermore, while legitimate platforms can probably be forced to act more quickly, ‘pirate’ sites likely won’t respond as required and won’t be responsive to fines, critics say.

“How can a pirate who is hiding his legal entity and identity be fined?” questioned one Kommersant source. Nevertheless, industry players are hoping that should new fines be introduced, they will be of a magnitude to act as a real deterrent against non-compliance.

The government has already penciled in a date of December 20, 2020, for the new amendments to come into force, so more detail should become available in the weeks to come. Whether they will have the desired effect will remain to be seen. In the meantime, however, the anti-piracy memorandum continues in the background.

The actions of the major companies party to the agreement don’t render content inaccessible at the source but according to recent reports, they are having considerable success in making pirated material harder to find in search engines.


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