Sites With >100 Links to Pirated Content Will Be Banned From Search Engines

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After being signed by some of Russia's most powerful tech and entertainment companies in 2018, the memorandum designed to remove infringing content from the internet is being revamped. The most aggressive change is that rather than taking a proactive stance on removals, domains carrying more than 100 links to movies and TV shows will be excluded from search results.

deleteDespite receving criticism from international rightsholders, Russia’s efforts to prevent pirated content being accessed locally match and at times even exceed standards applied elsewhere.

The country blocks pirate sites, sometimes permanently, and has a rightsholder-driven mechanism to automatically remove links to allegedly-infringing content from search engines. The latter is part of a voluntary anti-piracy memorandum signed by some of the country’s largest content and tech companies back in 2018.

The scheme has undergone adjustments and several extensions over the past three years and is now set for yet another revamp, one that is set to introduce even more measures aimed at reducing access to infringing content online.

New Agreement, Even Tougher Measures

On December 7, 2021, the signatories to the current memorandum attended a meeting with telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor. The parties agreed that by the end of this year, a new version of the memorandum will be signed, one that will seek to clamp down further still on the availability of pirated movies and TV shows in particular.

Mikhail Demin, President of the Media Communication Union (MKS), provided Vedomosti with details of what is perhaps the most aggressive measure thus far. Rather than rely on proactive actions to remove allegedly-infringing links from search results, domains that carry more than 100 links to pirated content will be removed from search results altogether.

For context, over the three years that the memorandum has been in action, more than 31 million links to pirated content have been carried out using the automated takedown system. Of the total domains affected by the deletions, around 20% of the domains were found to carry more than 100 links to unlicensed copies of movies and TV shows.

By removing these domains entirely, proactive measures against them will not be needed, at least as far as search is concerned.

“This indicates the systemic nature of violations. The removal of such sites entirely from search results, as stipulated by the agreed amendments to Memorandum 2.0, will definitely increase the effectiveness of the fight against pirates, reduce the availability of illegal content and contribute to the growth of legal video consumption,” Demin told the publication.

‘Legitimate’ Sites and Domains Excluded

The threshold of 100 links to infringing content is particularly low when given the nature of user-generated content sites anywhere in the world. Platforms such as Facebook and local competitor VKontakte/VK, YouTube and any similar service would immediately find themselves in huge trouble. However, this has already been considered as part of negotiations.

According to information from the working group, various categories of sites are excluded from the measure. Examples include government sites, online media sources, social networks and legitimate video platforms.

“It is understood that these resources are public and controlled by legal entities, which in case of violation of copyright or related rights may act as defendants in court,” the proposals read.

Expansion of Memorandum 2.0

While all signatories to the current memorandum support the proposals of the working group, there is also a desire to have the voluntary agreement written into law. That is taking longer than many people hoped, as is the inclusion of other rightsholders in the memorandum that were previously excluded.

However, Maxim Ryabyko of anti-piracy group AZAPI (which represents major publishers) and Nikita Danilov of NMFI (which represents recording labels such as Universal, Warner and Sony) inform Vedomosti that they have been taking part in the discussions to formulate the new agreement. Whether they will be fully embraced at this stage remains unclear.

The new memorandum is planned to be adopted by the end of 2021 with a validity period of three years.

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