Russia Gets Renewed Attention over Piracy Issues

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Tue, 03/13/2012 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

The International Intellectual Property Alliance has published its written submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative listing countries that it believes should be on the “priority watch list” regarding movie music video game and software piracy. The “most wanted” countries this year are Canada China Russia and Ukraine. At the same time the European Audiovisual Observatory part of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg has released its latest IRIS plus report Answers to Internet Piracy which offers a brand new analysis of what is being done to combat piracy in Europe with a special focus on Russia. Dmitry Golovanov of the Moscow Media Law and Policy Centre authored the lead article of this report – Fighting Internet Piracy in Russia. The article begins by detailing recent legal events in the fight against piracy in Russia such as the blacklisting of the Russian equivalent of Facebook by the Recording Industry Association of America or indeed the first ever case of a VKontakte user becoming a suspect in a criminal case for illegally uploading audio files. The author then proceeds to examine the regulatory principles applying to the Internet in Russia and their interpretation. Golovanov says “Russia lacks a comprehensive special law on the protection of intellectual property rights on the Internet as well as regulation of the Internet itself.” Current legislative action is based therefore on a combination of provisions contained in the Russian constitution the civil code various Supreme Court Resolutions and the Federal Statute “On information information technologies and protection of information”. Russia is an observer to the World Trade Organization and is expected to join this year. As a result the country will have to bring national legislation into line with the WTO agreements. As part of the accession agreement Russia has already agreed to “take action against […] websites (with servers located in the Russian federation) that promote illegal distribution of content.” Golovanov then goes on to look at the controversial practice of Russian courts in cases involving Internet sites stating that contradictory rulings are often made and that Russian Internet companies and rights holders often complain that courts simply do not know how to resolve disputes in this area. The report points out the inherent contradictions in the Russian law which does not “require Internet companies to monitor the legality of the conduct of their users but […] does not prevent the courts from holding them liable for not doing so…” Moving on to look at initiatives of concerned parties aimed at legislation reforms the author concludes that in the light of the aforementioned legal incoherencies a sea change is currently taking place in Russian legislation. This may be seen in “the recent efforts of the high courts to form unified law-enforcing practice and […] initiatives aimed at reforming the national system of intellectual property lawn namely the recent draft law amending the Civil Code.” On an international level Golovanov points out that Russian’s involvement in the WTO discussions and Medvedev’s plans to bring international intellectual property law into line with the Digital Age requirements “may also improve the effectiveness of intellectual property law protection under the national system.”