Street justice: Russia bans DVD, CD sales

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Russia has issued a law banning the sale of DVDs, videocassettes and music CDs from its street markets and kiosks in a further sign that the Kremlin is getting serious about combating piracy as coveted membership in the World Trade Organization moves closer.

The law, adopted late last week by the Russian government, replaces and updates a widely flouted measure introduced four years ago.

Industry observers in Moscow say the law should lead to a renewed crackdown on piracy through new police campaigns to stop the sale of optical discs at outdoor markets and street-corner kiosks — the principal point-of-sale for pirated DVDs in Russia.

Issuing the new law also allows the Kremlin to demonstrate that it is getting tough with pirates ahead of WTO accession. Russia's lax record on stemming piracy has been among the key stumbling blocks to its membership in the world's top trade club.

Konstantin Zemchenko, head of the Moscow-based Russian Anti Piracy Organization, which is backed by the MPA, applauded the decision to step up Russia's anti-piracy drive.

"Essentially, this is not really a new law — it simply adds computer software and databases to an existing list of banned products — but at least the government is paying attention to piracy," Zemchenko said. "We can expect for a time to see the police pay a little more attention to street and kiosk sales."

He added that, in the longer term, addressing the lax attitude of police to the sale of pirate goods on Russia's streets is key, as the police often turn a blind eye to piracy in return for payment from vendors.

Last week also saw the beginning of a more promising episode in the war on piracy, Zemchenko noted. The Russian Supreme Court adopted a draft report on better implementation of the law that covers piracy — Article 146 of the Russian criminal code.

When finalized, the report will form the basis of new advice to judges and criminal court clerks throughout Russia.

"This will instruct judges how to try piracy cases and how they should use Article 146 to more effectively prosecute pirates," Zemchenko said.
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