Putin beefs up penalties for piracy


LONDON -- Russia's DVD pirates will face up to six years in prison after President Vladimir Putin threw his weight behind the country's renewed campaign to tackle rampant piracy.

Putin signed off on tougher measures to combat piracy when he approved amendments to Russia's criminal code that add a year to the maximum sentences that producers of pirated movies, music and other intellectual property would face and double maximum fines to $20,000.

Amnesties that have often allowed known pirates to slip through the net will no longer apply, and the statute of limitations for chasing down pirate producers is increased to 10 years under the amendments to Article 146 of the Russian criminal code.

The measures -- which make piracy offenses a more serious crime under Russian law -- are a signal that the Kremlin is getting tough on copyright crime and should send a wave of fear through pirates who have become used to big profits and lax laws.

They also are expected to push piracy up the list of police priorities. In the past, intellectual property crimes were not reported in a separate category, meaning police often paid less attention to them than more traditional serious crimes such as car theft or assaults.

Konstantin Zemchenkov, head of the Russian Anti-Piracy Organization, welcomed the measures Thursday, calling them "on the whole good and correct."

Zemchenkov, whose organization is backed by the MPA, said: "Producers of pirate material will be scared by these tougher new rules as it puts piracy into the category of grave crimes. I hope to see some definite results from this soon."