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Communists seek to repeal controversial Russian anti-piracy law

Communists seek to repeal controversial Russian anti-piracy law
A bill repealing Russia’s new anti-piracy law on the grounds it is harmful for Internet business and open to potential abuse has been submitted to the State Duma.

The move to cancel the controversial anti-piracy law came less than one month after its official introduction and just days after the start of the Lower House’s fall session. Its two main sponsors are Communist Party deputies Ivan Melnikov, first deputy speaker of the State Duma, and Oleg Smolin, first deputy chairman of the education committee.

An announcement posted on the State Duma’s website reads that the current anti-piracy law “is aimed not against actual copyright piracy, but against the rights and lawful interests of honest Internet users as well as honest website owners.” The main argument of the Communist MPs is that while the law allows authorities to block illegal content using IP addresses, such an approach can block perfectly legal web pages that have the same IP address.

The politicians also claim that the new law allows the authorities to block websites after user comments with banned content are posted by rivals of those websites. After violations are reported to law enforcement agencies, websites can be closed down – a scheme the lawmakers said amounts to dishonest competition.

The MPs said in their bill that the internet petition against the law was signed by over 100,000 citizens within about a week, which officially makes it obligatory for the Lower House to consider it.

The ‘anti-piracy’ law that came into force on August 1 allows the authorities to order Russian Internet providers to block websites once copyright holders file a complaint alleging sites are distributing pirated content or have links to pirated content. The block is valid for 15 days, in which time the copyright holder must prepare and file a lawsuit. Otherwise the block is lifted automatically.

The law orders all piracy claims be sent to the Moscow City Court, a measure which has been criticized by Internet specialists and the broader public, who said that it creates an unnecessary caseload for judges and also discriminates against Russians who live outside of the capital city.

The law only concerns video content such as movies and TV programs. However, the supporters of the bill promised that within months the State Duma would expand the act so that it covers music and written content.

To date, the Moscow City Court has received 19 complaints against pirated content and approved 11 of them. Eight complaints were rejected, however.

A series of protests have taken place against the new legislation, including street rallies and online strikes. About 1,700 websites, including the country’s leading e-mail service mail.ru, posted anti-copyright banners and temporarily went offline on the day when the law came into force. The unregistered Russian Pirate Party, which argues for free content distribution, has held several street rallies in Moscow and other cities across the country, calling upon users to declare a “black August” and stop buying legal video content for one month, including movie tickets.