As entertainment giants and governments in the West struggle to deal with the ongoing flood of pirate content hitting the Internet, Russia has emerged from the shadows as a surprise front-runner in the anti-piracy wars.
The country has passed several pieces of legislation over the past few years, all designed to limit the availability of pirated content. Court processes are now swift and particularly voluminous, with large numbers of sites ordered to remove illegal content or face the proposition of temporary and indeed permanent blocking.
This week, Alexander Zharov, the head of the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Media (better known as Roscomnadzor), met with President Vladimir Putin to provide a one-on-one update on the situation in the country.
Two topics were on the agenda – the protection of personal data held by millions of Russian companies and the thorny issue of intellectual property protection.
“For three years already, the law on the protection of intellectual property rights is working. Most of the complaints from copyright holders are related to movies,” Zharov told Putin.
“More than six thousand claims over three years were filed mainly by [local] companies, and a very small percentage of Western companies, that for some reason are suing at the Moscow City Court.”
The Moscow City Court is tasked with receiving lawsuits from copyright holders demanding that sites with infringing content either remove it, or face blocking procedures implemented by local ISPs.
Zharov said that three entities are involved in copyright action in Russia; the copyright holders who file the complaints, the Moscow City Court which decides on what course of action to take, and telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, which is tasked with executing the orders of the Court. In total, complaints have been filed against 17,000 pirate sites, Zharov told the President.
“A few years ago, the Russian Internet was absolutely a safe haven for pirates. Any premiere immediately appeared on hundreds and thousands of resources, and people watched them for free, even in poor quality, but nevertheless, that’s how it was,” he said.
“Now the situation has changed dramatically: six thousand resources have been blocked and 11,000 have deleted such content. And the numbers speak for themselves.
“For the first time in the history of Russian cinematography, our very good film, the premiere of 2018, ‘Move Up’, raised about three billion rubles (US$45.5m). This is comparable, perhaps, with only one American blockbuster, which raised the same amount.”
Zharov also updated Putin on the development of legal offerings in Russia, claiming that last year legal online streaming services earned 60% more than a year earlier, to the tune of eight billion rubles (US$121.4m). Traditional cinemas are also doing well, he added, noting that 55 million people attended premieres, 40% more than a year earlier.
“We intend to continue this work with rights holders. And, in general, all the largest pirate sites are now blocked. We will continue to clean up the Internet,” he concluded.
The positive messages from the meeting with Putin follow hot on the heels of a rather less optimistic report from Group-IB.
The cyber-security company reported that in 2016, there were ‘only’ 33 Russian cinema leaks via illegal camcording. By 2017, that had increased more than 500% to 211 but in the first eight months of 2018, 280 movies had leaked online – despite site blocking.
“Almost every film released in 2018 has been pirated and leaked to the web. In 2017, the country’s cinemas showed 477 movies, and 211 of them were pirated, which is 6 times more than a year earlier,” Group-IB reported.