Pirates go political: Russian file sharers catch up with Europe

File-sharers in Russia have decided to follow the example of their European comrades by setting up a political party. The Pirates of Russia Party wants new laws to protect file sharing online.

They also want to put pressure on the Russian showbiz industry.

Well-known Russian musician and producer Oleg Nesterov has been in show business since the late 1980s. Back then, giving away demo tapes was the best way to gain fans.

However, after two decades his formula seems to be making a comeback. Except now, to spread the word, Oleg publishes his music on the web for free so people pay to see him in concert.

“You see, the album was already uploaded and downloaded a hundred times before I even published it,” he told RT. “I know there is no point in fighting it, so I am going to use it instead.”

According to some estimates, entertainment piracy leads to over US $10 billion in losses globally every year and sends shivers down the spines of show business magnates worldwide. Russia is no exception.

”Anything can be found on the internet!” said general director of Universal Music Group International, Dmitry Konnov. “Many musicians are forced to hold more concerts, while just a few years ago they were merely a second source of income.”

Record companies are accusing pirates of stealing their money, but there are those who want to draw a fine line between selling counterfeit CDs or DVDs and sharing files on the internet.

Among them is chairman of Pirates of Russia Party, Pavel Rassudov.

“The non commercial exchange of information must be free,” he said. “The internet is everywhere. I just need to click a button a couple of times and download a movie or some new album I want to listen to. The old distribution model is pointless and outdated.”

The party wants to see new laws in Russia, legalizing all non-profit file sharing on the web. Formed in July 2009, it is also one of the founders of the Pirate Parties International, a movement which unites so called pirates from around 50 countries.

“We need to take a stand and oppose traditional politics to take back the freedom that once belonged to us,” said co-chair of Pirate Parties International Gregory Engels. “Pirates of the world, unite!”

Some web sites accused of facilitating illegal file sharing, and the global anti-copyright movement, have millions of registered users. Last year, two members of the Swedish Pirates Party even managed to win two seats in the European Parliament.

However, show business is reluctant to agree with the assertion that web content should be free.

“These people are naive and lost with their poor knowledge of economics and history,” said producer Aleksandr Akopov. “A free economy cannot exist.”

This type of criticism is supported by some deputies of the State Duma who say by making the Pirates of Russia Party official, its organisers could get more than they bargain for.

“The establishment of this party will not liberate these people from criminal liability for violating the law,” noted Dmitry Polikanov from United Russia party.

The Pirates of Russia are saying the current laws are outdated and unfair and claim that they will be backed by most of the internet users in the country, who constitute around 40 per cent of the electorate.

Piracy is surely a controversial subject, but it has grown into an international phenomenon, with some official pirates even getting involved in European politics.

However, before the pirates of Russia party can even dream of getting into the State Duma, they will need to gather at least 45,000 members just to register.

And even if they did have the right amount of supporters, the question remains whether Russian pirates are ready to come out of the shadow and name themselves.