Russia’s ‘SOPA’ Passed By Lawmakers, Site Blocking Begins “In Weeks”

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Aggressive new anti-piracy legislation that allows for sites to be rapidly blocked by ISPs upon allegations of copyright infringement passed through its final two readings in Russia's State Duma today. Lawmakers fast-tracked the controversial legislation despite intense opposition from Google and Yandex, Russia's biggest search engine. Following upper house and presidential approval, the law is expected to come into effect on August 1.

russsopaAfter many years of doing almost nothing to stop the spread of unauthorized materials online, the Russian Government recently introduced a draft bill proposing one of the toughest online copyright regimes to be found anywhere in the world.

The proposals would see copyright holders filing lawsuits against sites carrying infringing content. Site owners would then be required to remove unauthorized content or links to the same within 72 hours. Failure to do so would result in their entire site being blocked by Internet service providers pending the outcome of a court hearing.

Last Friday, 257 lawmakers in Russia’s State Duma voted in favor of the bill during its first hearing, despite outcry from Internet giants such as Google, and Yandex, the country’s largest search engine.

It was hoped that amendments proposed by the tech giants aimed at making the legislation less punishing on innovation could be introduced before the bill’s second and third readings. Today those hopes were dashed when lawmakers fast-tracked the bill and had both readings in one day.

The result is a law that allows copyright holders to complain directly to the courts if infringing material is found, even without first contacting the website in question. If the rightsholder wins his case and the content remains, the site’s IP address will be blacklisted by Russian ISPs.

The blocking of IP addresses, which can be shared by many sites, is terrifying web companies.

“This approach is technically illiterate and endangers the very existence of search engines, and any other Internet resources. This version of the bill is directed against the logic of the functioning of the Internet and will hit everyone – not just internet users and website owners, but also the rightsholders,” a spokesman for Yandex said in a statement.

“It’s like forever closing the highway, on which there was only one accident.”

Controversially, the original version of the draft bill proposed that all copyrighted content would be covered, but due to last minute negotiations only movies and TV shows will be included for protection. However, further negotiations are expected in the summer to expand the law’s reach to a wider range of content.

The law is expected to come into effect August 1, following upper house and presidential approval.


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