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First lawsuit filed under new Russian anti-piracy law

First lawsuit filed under new Russian anti-piracy law
A movie distribution company has filed a lawsuit against Russia’s largest social network on the day a new law which has been criticized by activists and internet companies came into force.

Distributors Cinema without Borders asked a Moscow City court to protect five films (by Takeshi Kitano, John Kasdan, Steve McQueen, David Cronenberg, Jacques Cluzaud and Jacques Perrin) from illegal internet broadcast organized by users of the Vkontakte social network – a loose copy of Facebook that offers its users an opportunity to store and broadcast media files. When it comes to the user-downloaded content, Vkontakte is known for its extremely lax copyright policy. A special department within the company is said to monitor the situation but they only delete child pornography and extremism.

The court’s spokesperson told reporters that the lawsuit was rejected as the distribution company did not attach to it any documents proving their copyright claims, and the head of the company, Sam Klebanov, also did not back his status with any papers.

She added that the plaintiff has the right to resubmit the lawsuit after making corrections to it.

Vkontakte said that they have not received any notification concerning the alleged piracy and therefore took no action.

According to the new Russian law which came into force on August 1, the copyright holders can contact the web-site that illegally distributes the protected content directly, or the state consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor should within 3 days order the web-site to block the access to questionable files until the court decides on the case. In cases when web-site owners refuse to comply with the order, Rospotrebnadzor must tell internet providers to block the whole site.

If the copyright owner does not file a lawsuit within 15 days after the initial complaint the blocking should be lifted.

It is not clear if Cinema Without Borders sought the out-of-court blocking or if they decided to get the court order first.

The head of the company, Sam Klebanov, announced the move on his Twitter feed and immediately faced a wave of protests from followers. To this, the promoter replied that he did not consider those who watch films in Vkontakte his audience, and added that the social network was making profit through allowing broadcasts of pirated videos.

@AktualnoRu Люди, которые смотрят пиратские копии на Вконтакте - не мои зрители. Это зрители Вконтакте, который на них зарабатывает.

— Sam Klebanov (@SamKlebanov) August 1, 2013

The new anti-piracy law faced a lot of criticism when it was developed and discussed by legislators. The critics said it was strange that it only protected movies and TV series and that out-of court blocking can be easily used for unfair competition and even political censorship.

The unregistered Pirate Party of Russia recently held a street rally against the law and called upon its supporters to reply with a “Black August” – not go to the movies and not to buy any legal content for a month.