Russia’s invasion of Ukraine coupled with retaliatory measures and dangerous brinkmanship threatens to destabilize the entire planet.
When a broad coalition of countries imposed sanctions on Russia last year, the goal was to limit Putin’s ability to wage war without resorting to war itself.
Sanctions were ostensibly crafted to curtail military capability while meting out punishment to Russia’s elite. They were never likely to deliver results overnight or be precise enough to avoid collateral damage, as entertainment and software companies are now acutely aware.
Intellectual Property, More Conflict
Thus far, diminished access to various types of licensed intellectual property has prompted mostly unofficial responses in Russia. Facing an existential crisis and no support from the government, some elements in the cinema industry began screening unlicensed Western movies, for example.
Unlike ally Belarus, which effectively legalized piracy recently, the Russian government has busied itself with proposals to introduce compulsory licensing for ‘enemy’ content but has faced opposition from within.
A current proposal envisages Russian cinemas legally screening foreign movies without rightsholders’ permission but with some kind of payment. After President Putin asked for input and opinions, the government department responsible for Russia’s economic growth issued its response late last week.
“The Ministry of Economic Development of Russia informs that the proposals contained in the appeal to amend the legislation of the Russian Federation are not supported, including due to the fact that they may entail a violation of international agreements to which the Russian Federation is a party, as well as negative assessments of Russian legislation and law enforcement practice in protection of property and property rights,” the document reads.
Since it “creates legal uncertainty,” Russia’s Ministry of Culture says the proposal requires significant revision, including assurances that rightsholders will get paid. The Ministry of Justice agrees that rightsholders should be compensated but says the proposals should not be limited to physical cinemas; online streaming portals should be allowed to screen unlicensed movies too.
Former Russian President Does Away With Formalities
As various governmental departments attempt to balance the reality of sanctions with the needs of the populace and the rule of law, yesterday former president Dmitry Medvedev brushed aside the legislative process by framing the unlicensed use of ‘enemy’ intellectual property as just one of Russia’s responses to Western sanctions.
“Enemy countries do not have the courage to admit that their ‘hellish’ sanctions have failed miserably. They do not work. The vast majority of industrial products and consumer goods were replaced by our own, Russian, and the missing ones – by Asian brands. Parallel imports also work, from which we get the same Western brands, and their owners get nothing,” Medvedev wrote on Telegam.
While Medvedev fails to recognize that Russia’s purchases of Western products in the gray market still generate revenue for Western companies, his role as deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia is to implement Putin’s national security decisions.
From his statement, it appears that while intellectual property rights may be enshrined in law, legislative amendments will, at best, catch up with the reality of events on the ground. And if they require any payments to rightsholders, that will be too much for Medvedev.
Recognition for Pirates Helping Russia
“So everything is as always: the Americans make money on a humiliated Europe. Crushed Europe endures and loses money. At the same time, even the IMF predicts economic growth in Russia this year,” Medvedev continued on Telegram.
“All that remains is to adopt the rules on the use of their intellectual property. Without any licenses and payment of royalties. This, among other things, will be our retaliatory sanctions on their property rights,” said the close Putin ally.
The current proposal deals with film content, but for Medvedev, that doesn’t go far enough. He says the use of unlicensed content should cover “everything” from movies to industrial software – nothing will be off-limits.
If Medvedev’s use of an old French phrase represents reality and the use of ‘trollface’ offers no contradiction, Russia may have been making best use of available resources for some time.
“Thanks, by the way, to those who have developed various programs for the unlicensed use of their expensive intellectual products. In short, for piracy in a personal sanctions regime, à la guerre comme à la guerre.”
In a comment posted to state media outlet RIA, Medvedev’s statement led to confusion.
“I don’t understand this, if the second highest person in security in the country thanks the pirates, then why do I still access torrents through a VPN to download the next movie?”