Russia to Form New Copyright Watchdog Amid Anti-Piracy Push

Veteran director Nikita Mikhalkov could reportedly choose the group's head.

MOSCOW -- The Russian government plans to form an agency in charge of copyright observance amid a series of moves aimed at cracking down on piracy.

The economic development ministry has submitted to the government a project for an agency for copyright control, which is to be formed on the basis of the existing patent agency but will have much broader authority and would be reporting directly to the government.

The move comes at a time when the Russian government is apparently stepping up its activities aimed at fighting piracy. Earlier this year, a stricter anti-piracy law was enacted, but its effectiveness is yet to be seen, while rights holders have repeatedly stated that the government is to make more effort in that area.

Over the last few years, Russian film producers have named piracy among the most pressing issues for the sector, which only the government could properly address. It is difficult to estimate the exact value of Russia's pirated video market, but experts estimate it to be more than $200 million a year.

Russian business daily Vedomosti reported that veteran director Nikita Mikhalkov, who is also head of one of the country's collecting societies, RSP, is going to choose the new agency's head. He is believed to have played a major role in adopting a regulation a few years ago, under which importers of electronic equipment are to pay a one percent tax on all devices that could be used for copying video and audio content.

The Vedomosti report also quoted an anonymous government official as saying that the new body is also going to control the operation of RSP and another state-appointed collecting society, RAO, to make sure all relevant regulations are observed. Rights holders have repeatedly complained that RSP and RAO are not transparent enough.