Following intense pressure from local and international entertainment companies, on August 1, 2013 Russia introduced a brand new anti-piracy law.
Initially covering only movies, the law allowed websites offering ‘pirate’ content to be blocked by local ISPs if they fail to respond to complaints. Late November 2014 the law was further amended to include all copyrighted content except images.
The legislation has been used dozens of times to threaten unresponsive sites with blocking at the ISP level, but in many cases operators have complied to ensure they keep off Russia’s blocklist. Surprisingly the world’s largest user-generated content site YouTube today finds itself perilously close to becoming a new addition.
The problem dates back several months when TV shows owned by TNT-network appeared on the site without authorization. In April, YouTube received requests from local telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor to delete the content and apparently responded in a timely manner.
However, fresh monitoring carried out by Roskomnadzor this month reportedly found almost 140 links to the same content, an event that prompted the watchdog to initiate the start of the blocking procedure.
“On the application of the right holder ‘TNT-Teleset’ and in accordance with a decision of the Moscow City Court from April 7, 2015, tentative interim measures of protection of the exclusive rights to [two TV series] have been implemented against social networking website YouTube.com,” Roskomnadzor announced.
“Notification with a request to remove the unlawfully placed materials has been repeatedly directed at the administration of the Internet resource. Currently, access to the illegal videos has not been limited.”
For YouTube, the clock is now ticking. Roskomnadzor is alerting Russian users that on Monday July 27 YouTube pages will be added to Russia’s national register of copyright violators. However, due to the way blocking is sometimes implemented, Roskomnadzor warns that for some the entire site may be rendered inaccessible.
“The video hosting site has a huge audience, and for some users the resource could become completely unavailable,” Roskomnadzor’s Vadim Ampelonsky told local media.
“The administration of YouTube has always responded to our needs and removed illegal content. But in [this case] this hasn’t happened for reasons that aren’t apparent to us. We very much hope that we will not have to put YouTube on the blocklist registry.”
It’s unclear why YouTube hasn’t responded to the requests of Roskomnadzor. The company is usually responsive to complaints and it should be trivial to add the TV shows in question to its ContentID system so that uploads of the same can be spotted in the future. But in any event, YouTube has just days to respond before the banhammer falls.