Russian web host ruled guilty of copyright violation for hosting pirate website

By Voice of Russia

Russian web hosts will now be responsible for pirated content. At least, according to the recent ruling of the Moscow city courty, which found a web hosting operator with a bland name “Internet Hosting” guilty for spreading pirated copies of “American Groom”.

Wait, what? Yes, apparently that’s a reality show in which Russian girls in Miami are competing for the hands in marriage of each of four Russian-born American bachelors. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but apparently it’s not ridiculous enough to be a) pirated and b) serve as grounds for a court ruling. The first decision regarding the intellectual property has been carried out in late 2013; long story short, late April 2014 the final appeal was rejected. The web host which allowed a website to facilitate use of pirated copies of the show has been found guilty for the transgression of violating intellectual property rights. The punitive sentence can be either two years behind bars or correctional labor.

It should be noted that this is the first sentence of its kind to be handed out in Russia. Previously, all anti-piracy court rulings were limited to specific users or websites which hosted pirated media. The so-called “anti-piracy” law adopted last year introduced the concept of “information intermediaries”. So what is an “information intermediary”? It’s an entity that is to be held responsible for breaking the copyright law. . Here goes: it’s “the entity, which transfers content through a [telecommunication] network, including the Internet; the entity, which provides the facilities to host content or information, required to procure this content through a telecommunication network; the entity, providing access to this content”. A copyright holder can demand that an information intermediary, if they’re not liable themselves for copyright infringement, to prevent such access. Last year, when the law was adopted, the main arguing point of opponents was that such ‘intermediaries’ can be pretty much anyone – such as search engines, which can potentially link to pirate websites. Or, as the latest ruling showed – web hosts. Whether the ruling will pave the way to things like search engine moderation to avoid similar lawsuits targeting search engines remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the next iteration of the anti-piracy law is to be discussed in the State Duma shortly. Ahead of the discussion between legislators, Internet companies have found a forum to defend their interests before the Russian government. The new platform was created last week following a meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and a number of high-ranking officials. Shuvalov ordered creation of a working group formed within the Communications and Press Ministry, which will bring together Internet business with representatives from the relevant ministries to develop amendments to intellectual property laws soon to face the State Duma. Industry representatives exhibited a mixed reaction. Some are apprehensive as they say it still remains to be seen what the working group will achieve, if anything. Others praised its creation. For example, chairman of the commission for Internet media at The Russian Association for Electronic Communications, or RAEC, admitted that the fact that it was created at all, and particularly on the order of the first deputy prime minister, is significant. The working group’s first task was to propose amendments to the bill on intellectual property to appear in the State Duma by the end of May.

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