New Anti-Piracy Law Allows Russian Rights Owners to Tackle illegal Internet Download Sites

Supporters say the measure, introduced Thursday, is a start -- but more needs to be done.


MOSCOW - Russian film producers and anti-piracy activists have welcomed a new law that allows them to shut down internet sites that refuse to pull illegal movie downloads.

The anti-piracy law, which comes into effect in Russia Thursday, gives internet site owners just three days to take down illegal movie downloads or face being shut down.

The measure gives film and television movie rights holders a significantly stronger hand in combating online piracy, which is estimated to cost legitimate companies in Russia as much as $2 billion a year in lost revenues.

But campaigners say the new law does not go far enough and are fighting for further regulations over illicit downloads of music, e-books and games.

Konstantin Zemchenko, head of the Russian Anti-Piracy Organization (RAPO), which is backed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), said: "We wanted more and had proposed that the sites themselves should legally have to filter out pirated content, but this was fought by powerful providers such as Google.

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"But this is just the beginning and in September Russian lawmakers will look at giving greater protection to music, books and games as well."

Another challenge was ensuring that when piracy was identified a rights holder submitted sufficient evidence to a court to ensure success. RAPO was preparing a number of test cases to provide a model for others, Zemchenko added.

Sergey Selyanov, whose company STV had produced some of Russia's biggest box office successes, including cartoon Three Heroes on Distant Shores that this year took $25 million domestically, said he was pleased the law had been adopted but would monitor its application closely.

"It is a huge problem. Increasing penetration of broadband Internet has pushed the number of permanent users of torrents [pirate sites] to between 17 million and 20 million," Selyanov said.

VKontakte, a Russian Facebook lookalike that allows users to download films and music free of charge, had up to 50 million users.

The new law would make it easier to talk to powerful internet companies such as Yandex, and VKontakte that in the past were polite but claimed they were powerless to act, Selyanov added.

Selyanov, a member of the Russian Association of Producers and Broadcasters that lobbied for four years for the new law, said the aim was to monetize internet content and increase the legal space for business.

Although that would mean users paid for content, eventually everyone would benefit as prices would drop, just as they had done with the cost of mobile phone calls that initially were very expensive but now cheap, he said.

Sam Klebanov, head of boutique art house distribution company Cinema Without Frontiers, was one of the first to take legal action, submitting a case to Moscow city court Thursday involving five movies titles that were available illegally on VKontakte.

Klebanov told The Hollywood Reporter that he wanted to test the new law.

"I'd like to see a public discussion about how to make the law more effective, but we need to work with what we have for now."

He added that although it was difficult to precisely define losses from the films that include Steve McQueen's ShameDavid Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method and French eco-documentary Oceans, the figure ran into 'tens of thousands of dollars' for each title.