Fair share: Russian torrent users may be punished for uploading pirated content

In a move to fight online piracy flourishing in Russia, the Culture Ministry has threatened to fine not only internet providers and owners of websites, but also users of torrent web sites who upload content in violation of copyright.

Russia has one of the highest rates of piracy in the world, with thousands of users preferring not to pay for the online content. Perhaps it's unsurprising with so many different online file swappers and torrent websites offering people their favorite tunes for free?

For Russian people it's kind of obvious to download music for free on the Internet and they don't have such a thing in their mentality - to support artists they like, by buying records, CDs, vinyl,” Yury Makarychev, lead-singer from On-The-Go band, told RT.

Set to bring order to the area, the culture ministry has come up with a strong bill to fight online piracy.

Under the draft, copyright owners would inform communications operators of torrent users who upload music or videos illegally, reported Kommersant daily. The operator would have 24 hours to notify the copyright violator on the necessity to remove or block illegal content. If the user ignores the demand, the operator would be obliged to block access to the content within 12 hours. 

Violators of the law would face fines: ordinary people would have to shell out up to 5,000 roubles ($156) for pirated content, and legal entities – up to a million roubles ($US 31,000). 

Owners of websites, under the draft law, are also responsible for the content posted on their source. The ministry plans to create a special register with the information on intellectual property protected by copyright. It is suggested that internet site owners should use the register to make sure that content posted on their source is legal. 

This project has already sparked a wave of criticism from IT-companies who accuse the authors of the law for a lack of knowledge about technological processes on the internet. 

Pre-moderation of all user content is technically impossible today “without a system collapse,” coordinator for legal issues of the Russian Association of Electronic Communications, Irina Levova told Itar-Tass. The requirement for an operator to notify users of the file-sharing networks on the IP address is actually not feasible, she said. Additionally, tracing of users of the torrent trackers will require from the providers “not only introducing the systems of deep package analysis, but also develop sophisticated algorithms” that will take both time and money.

Meanwhile, representatives of music and film-making businesses – who suffer serious financial losses because of online pirates - have welcomed the initiative.

The financial losses are just as big as the black market itself. And not only for cinema, but music, literature - everything connected with intellectual property. It's simply impossible to calculate how much we all lose, until it's made illegal,” Karen Shakhnazarov film-maker, head of Mosfilm Studios says.

The illegal media market doesn’t just sap the entertainment industries' profits, it also affects the way future projects are financed, RT’s Egor Piskunov says. A big blockbuster movie needs a big budget: the effects alone need major investment of both craft and cash all aimed to completely transport the audience to a whole other reality. But, right now, that movie magic is mainly possible because of state funding since many private investors are being scared off by the pirates.

In 2012, the Russian government invested 200 million dollars in the film industry. But even that level of investment struggles to tempt audiences back into theatres and away from the pirates.

We believe that, without piracy, films would be able to return twice the investment - state and private. While say one month after a movie premieres in cinemas, it could be released onto the web for free, but with adverts and legally,” says Konstantin Ernst, head of Russian state TV Channel One.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky asked President Vladimir Putin to support the anti-piracy bill.