August 1 Russia introduced new legislation aimed at reducing online copyright infringement.
Targeted initially at the unauthorized distribution of movies and TV shows, there were soon calls for the program to undergo expansion to include music, lyrics and other copyright works.
This Thursday the initiative, which will see non-conforming sites blocked at the ISP level, will have been underway for exactly three weeks. But while some critics envisioned a Russian Internet in tatters at the hands of over-zealous copyright holders, thus far things haven’t panned out that way.
Righthsolders have reported at least two file-sharing sites – rutor.org and turbofilm.tv – to the authorities for infringement of their copyrights. However, neither domain has been added to Russia’s blocklist and for good reason. A source close to one of the sites told TorrentFreak that both chose to delete the infringing links in question and are now continuing business as usual.
While both Rutor and Turbofilm were the subject of successful complaints, it appears that rightsholders are really struggling to meet the requirements of the law. Pavel Krasheninnikov, head of the State Duma Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation, revealed yesterday that four out of every ten blocking requests have been rejected so far.
“I contacted the chairman of the Moscow City Court – 19 applications were submitted, 11 of them were accepted, eight were declined,” Krasheninnikov said.
In order to have a blocking request accepted rightsholders are required to provide lots of documentation, including evidence that they own the content in question. It appears that is more easily said than done.
“The application process is quite time-consuming and costly. For example, certified translations of all documents of title are required,” Cinema Without Borders’ Sam Klebanov told Russia’s CommNews.
In order to overcome some of these kinds of administrative problems, particularly when dealing with Internet companies, there are suggestions that all rightsholders should have the option of coordinating their anti-piracy efforts through a non-profit agency accredited by the Ministry of Culture.
According to Vedomosti, the plan is to pre-verify the identities and managed properties of rightholders so that those processing complaints do not have to seek additional verification documents from those making them.
Klebanov’s company Cinema Without Borders was the first to have a filed complaint rejected on the basis of inadequate paperwork but he says that even with that failure, companies like vKontakte, the subject of their complaint, do seem to be taking note of the law. That, however, is only part of the problem.
“The big players that exist in the legal space are starting to pay attention to the law, but there are quite a lot of ‘wild’ pirates, who still continue their activities,” he said.
The question now is what will happen when rightsholders get their blocking requests in shape. Will it have terrible consequences for the free flow of information? Not so says Leonid Agronov from the National Federation of the Music Industry (NFMI).
According to Agronov, out of 120 million websites located in Runet, only around four thousand are involved in the unauthorized distribution of copyright works. Since this is a small proportion the effect of any blocking on the Internet as a whole would be minimal, Agronov argues.
Nevertheless, those kinds of assurances haven’t placated the masses. More than one hundred thousand people signed a petition against the new law, which led to an announcement yesterday by the State Duma’s Pavel Krasheninnikov.
“The Duma will consider the petition,” he promised.
It seems unlikely that any review of the law will change the course of the government but as the cases of Rutor and Turbofilm show, compliance is achieved by simply deleting a link. With several billion of those still online (each requiring lots of work to take down), rightsholders still have plenty to do.