Russia’s Anti-Piracy Law One Year On: 12 Sites Blocked

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Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Russia's controversial anti-piracy law. Figures released by Russia's telecoms agency reveal that in the past year 12 sites, mainly torrent trackers, were blocked under the legislation. Critics say that web-blocking has changed very little, with pirate content just as easy to find as before.

pirate-cardFollowing intense pressure from local and international rightsholders, on August 1, 2013, Russia introduced a brand new anti-piracy law.

The key strength of the legislation is that provides a mechanism for sites to be blocked should they not comply with rightsholder takedown requests within 72 hours.

This element of the framework caused widespread fear and speculation. Would thousands of sites, some carrying legitimate content, find themselves censored at the hands of over-broad legislation tipped heavily in favor of “corporate interests”?

Frankly, no.

Concern that rightsholders would stampede to court to quickly wipe out as many sites as possible proved unfounded. Out of 19 complaints filed in the first three weeks of the law, just 11 were correctly presented and processed. Torrent site was one of the earliest casualties.

After five months in action, rightsholders had filed around 75 official complaints. In 30 cases the targeted sites complied with official removal orders and in 19 others a decision was taken by the authorities to block offending URLs.

Then, just six months later, Minister of Communications Nikolai Nikiforov announced that the law was having the required effect.

“The law has actually brought us serious results,” he said.

“We found that [the law’s introduction] resulted in an increase of 30% in the number of people who pay for legal content. This is a major achievement. Our country plans to increase the number of consumers of legal content on the Internet to 30 million people by 2018.”

Critics remain doubtful of the dramatic turnaround and throughout the year there has been little downturn in the number of rightsholders complaining about piracy. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the new law’s introduction and it’s fair to say there were no festivities.

According to figures obtained by Izvestia from telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, during the past year the Moscow City Court imposed preliminary interim measures against 175 sites following copyright complaints.

The Court went on to block a total of 12 file-sharing related domains, most of them BitTorrent trackers. This number is far below the numbers predicted one year ago.

Perhaps unsurprisingly a far greater number of IP addresses were eventually blocked, 99 in total.

“This is due to the fact that the sites tried to avoid blocking by migrating to other IP-addresses that Roscomnadzor also monitors and places on the registry,” a spokesman said.

But despite all the complaints and blocking, pirated content is still easy to find, a key issue that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Nevertheless, the watchdog says that things are improving.

“If you want to find illegal content on the web, you still can today. But rightsholders now have the opportunity to make an impact on legal grounds, which is most critical for them in terms of the spread of pirated content. They are also beginning to unite to close pirated resources for longer,” the spokesman said.

Furthermore, fears expressed by search engines that the law would negatively impact the web have not come to pass.

“As for the dissatisfaction shown by Internet companies following the entry into force of the law, neither Google,, or Yandex has suffered from it. Many areas, where earlier there was illegal content, are now beginning to build into legitimate businesses.”

But despite positivity from the watchdog, critics remain.

“If you want to download any movie and can spend five minutes and still download it, then the law has brought no benefits,” Wikimedia executive director Stanislav Kozlovsky told Izvestia.

“Also remaining are the problems caused by the very principle of blocking IP-addresses. If a pirate site is suddenly blocked, it costs nothing to move to a different address. This problem is solved in just a day.”

Only time will tell if Russia’s legislative moves will pay off in the end, but if the first 12 months are anything to go by, they will have to wait considerably longer yet.


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