When it comes to the enforcement of copyright Russia is hardly the poster boy of the world’s intellectual property focused companies. In recent years the country has been subjected to intense criticism, especially from the United States, over its failure to curtail piracy both off and online.
It’s expected that Russia will eventually harden its currently lax approach to copyright but if the latest news coming out of the government there is anything to go by, that might be much sooner than most people expected.
A draft law filed by the Ministry of Culture on January 25 proposes that Russia toughens its approach to the handling of copyright takedowns to a level that will terrify technology businesses and give rightsholders a reason to party.
Under current laws such as the DMCA and other regional equivalents, website operators and hosts are required to remove allegedly infringing content once they receive a properly formatted “good faith” complaint. The system is widely used with Google receiving millions of such notices every week. However, if Russia’s draft law is approved, life is going to get very difficult for intermediaries.
The proposed amendments to current legislation will see hosting providers and site owners subjected to strict rules on how they must deal with takedown requests from copyright holders. Website operators will be given a day to remove or block content with hosts given an extra day in the event they have to discuss the takedown request with websites they host.
Furthermore, before allegedly infringing files are removed site owners will be required to make copies and make them available – along with the uploader’s personal details – to “competent authorities or rightsholders.”
But what will really scare Internet businesses is the Ministry of Culture’s proposal to fine companies that fail to meet the standards laid out above. Should a takedown request be dealt with improperly the government is suggesting penalties of between 3,000 rubles ($100) for individuals, increasing to a maximum of 500,000 rubles ($16,630) for businesses. Add on 90 day business suspensions and confiscation of servers and the package is enough to give rightsholders a reason to celebrate.
A lawyer at Mail.ru, a company that has faced legal action in the past due to users uploading copyrighted content, said the Ministry of Culture did not consult industry experts.
“Current legislation fully protects the rights holders, including the Internet,” said Anton Malginova. “Introduction of new mechanisms, not based on the Civil Code, are excessive, disproportionate and inconsistent with the goals and methods of regulation.”
Alexander Panov, Managing Partner at Hostcomm, an organization that represents the largest Russian hosting providers and domain registrars, said the proposals could prove considerably problematic.
“Our experience shows that 90% of these [copyright] complaints are without foundation,” he said, adding that to expect site owners to comply within a day is “actually impossible.”
The draft legislation does offer a small level of balance to Internet users subjected to takedown complaints. Challenges to incorrect notices can be made within 10 days and if rightsholders still insist on content being taken down they can take their case to court. If they fail to file a case within a month, site owners and hosts may lawfully reinstate the disputed content. Users subjected to wrongful claims can demand compensation.
The draft law, filed last Friday and signed by the President of the Russian Federation, ends with a note that it will enter law “90 days after its official publication.”