U.S. Copyright Holders Want Russia to Criminally Prosecute Pirate sites

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Russia has implemented a wide variety of anti-piracy laws and procedures in recent years. Thousands of copyright-infringing sites have been blocked and even app stores and search engines have to take action. However, according to the IIPA, which includes the MPA, RIAA, and other entertainment industry groups, Russia should do more.

pirate flagsOver the past several years, Russia has introduced various anti-piracy laws and regulations.

Pirate sites can be blocked through court orders, app stores have to take strict action against ‘pirate’ apps, search engines must swiftly block pirate sites, and even VPN services and proxies can be banned.

The measures go far beyond what we see in most other countries but, according to US copyright holders, these still don’t go far enough. Online piracy and camcording in Russian movie theatres remain a significant problem.

Copyright Groups Call Out Russia

IIPA, which counts copyright groups including the MPA, RIAA, and ESA among its members, shared these and other concerns with the US Trade Representative as part of the annual review of Russia’s World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations.

The submission highlights the progress that was made on the legislative front. New laws and procedures have made it harder for Russians to use pirate apps or sites. However, these measures have done little to stop the sites themselves, which often remain accessible abroad.

“Unfortunately, American right holders continue to report that these procedures are being directed against the infringing activity of only users within Russia and are not being used against Russian sites and services catering to users outside the country,” IIPA writes.

“Even the most effective takedown procedures and processes to disable access to websites can only slow piratical activities and have little lasting deterrent effect without civil, and especially criminal, prosecutions directed at commercial site operators and owners.”

Criminal Prosecution

IIPA calls for significant copyright enforcement improvements to tackle Russian pirate sites and services. In addition to blocking the platforms at the ISP level, the authorities should criminally prosecute their operators.

The group provides several examples of sites that allegedly operate from Russia. Several of these also appear on the USTR’s annual list of notorious foreign markets.

The movie industry highlights the St. Petersburg-based streaming site seasonvar.ru, which lists over 17,000 TV series on the site. In addition, Russia’s largest social network VK.com is called out as well.

The software industry notes that Russia harbors the most game pirates of any country in the world, at least on P2P services. It mentions torrentdownloads.me, dirtywarez.com, and romtohome.com among the worst offenders.

Music companies also see significant piracy troubles tracing back to Russia. This includes torrent sites, linking sites and cyberlockers. The Russia-based streamrippers Flvto.biz and 2Conv.com – which were sued in the US – are specifically called out.

Finally, the publishing sector calls out Libgen and Sci-Hub as problematic sites. The latter was targeted in two US lawsuits but, despite two injunctions against the site, Sci-Hub remains freely accessible in most countries around the world.

“In short, much more effective enforcement is needed against online piracy in Russia, particularly the long-identified pirate sites,” IIPA notes.

Camcording Pirates

In addition to criminal prosecutions against pirate sites and services, IIPA would also like to see tougher action against ‘camcording’ piracy. Every year, dozens of pirated movies are traced back to Russia.

“Russia remains the home to some of the world’s most prolific criminal release groups of motion pictures,” IIPA notes, adding that in the past five years 253 films from MPA members were pirated from Russian theatres.

These films eventually end up online, often with branding from gambling companies, who appear to see these releases as a great advertising venue.

“Many of the release groups are connected to online gambling companies which pay for the recording of films in theatres in exchange for the inclusion of advertising for their services within the infringing copies.”

IIPA hopes that the USTR will put these concerns on the diplomatic agenda. That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Russia points a finger back at the US, which remains the top traffic source for pirate sites.

A copy of IIPA’s response to USTR’s request for comments concerning Russia’s Implementation of its WTO Commitments is available here (pdf)

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