Following persistent complaints from copyright holders that Russian Internet giant Yandex has failed to keep ‘pirate’ links to TV shows out of its search results, several major broadcasters filed a lawsuit with the Moscow City Court.
Gazprom-Media outlets including TNT, TV-3, 2×2, and Super asked the Court to have ISPs block Yandex’s video indexing platform. The Court complied and gave Yandex until August 30 to remove all of the offending content.
Yandex responded with a refusal to comply, insisting that the law had been misinterpreted and that search engines are not covered by existing legislation. Content should be removed by the sites hosting it, Yandex claimed.
Soon after, however, Yandex changed direction. Fearing that its entire site would be blocked for non-compliance, Yandex removed links to the content and filed an appeal with the Moscow City Court. The search giant wanted the interim order rejected in respect of the TV shows owned by TV3 but the appeal failed.
A second appeal by Yandex concerning links to the TNT TV show ‘House Arrest’ also failed this week. According to a TASS report, the Court dismissed the company’s request to have the preliminary measures protecting the show lifted.
Late August, Yandex found itself responding to further legal action initiated by the TV channels. The lawsuits required the company to “stop creating technical conditions that ensure the placement of works on the Yandex.ru website” or face fines of 10,000 rubles ($150) for each instance of infringement of House Arrest and several other TV shows.
The Moscow City Court says it will begin hearing these cases next week.
“According to the results of the preliminary hearings, consideration of the claim of TNT-TV Network versus Yandex LLC is scheduled for October 15 at 11:00 Moscow time,” the Court said in a statement.
On the same date, the Court will also hear arguments in the lawsuit filed against Yandex by the TV channels Super, TV3 and 2×2. Each seeks to prevent Yandex from linking to infringing copies of their shows in search results or face fines.
The cases against Yandex have caused an element of confusion in Russia over the limits of current copyright law. In September, Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov said that the country’s anti-piracy legislation needs to be “improved” following the Yandex/Gazprom dispute.
Meanwhile, rightsholders and tech companies have been attempting to thrash out the terms of a memorandum to deal with piracy moving forward. TASS reported Friday that Yandex is prepared to sign first but only if companies including Google, YouTube, and Mail.ru group members vKontakte and others follow.
“We are in favor of an early resolution of the issue and are ready to be the first to sign the memorandum on the condition that the document will enter into force only after it has been signed by other participants,” Yandex said.
The comments follow a meeting this week attended by telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, Yandex, Mail.ru Group, plus rightsholder representatives Gazprom-Media and the Association of Film and Television Producers. With the parties still a distance apart on the issue of piracy, Mail.ru suggested the adoption of DMCA-like system to counter infringing content.
“The best mechanism for interaction between Internet sites and copyright holders, in our opinion, is the international DMCA format, which regulates copyright with the development of new technologies,” the company said, adding that removing content within 24 hours of a copyright complaint is an accepted standard.
Mail.ru told TASS that while it already adheres to a strict policy when removing pirate content and believes further measures aren’t needed, it remains open to further discussion with rightsholders. Yandex reiterated that all parties need to be on board for an agreement to be reached.
“We oppose piracy and consider it necessary to develop a solution that will be transparent and equally applicable to all key Internet services on the market,” Yandex added in a statement.
“Such an approach should be fixed at the legislative level. Before the relevant law enters into force, the decision can be formalized as an industry memorandum.”