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Departure of YouTube from Russia could result in growth of pirated content, Government warns

The use of pirated content in Russia may significantly increase in the event of a decision by leading foreign video-sharing websites and servers to leave the country due to the planned imposition of restrictions on their ownership by foreigners, which is currently being considered by the Russian government and the local Parliament (State Duma).

New amendments have been developed and proposed by the Russian Media Communication Union (a public association that unites leading Russian media holdings and TV operators) and have been submitted for the consideration of the Russian Parliament.

In accordance with the new amendments, all companies that specialise in the distribution of films, television programs and video programs on Russian internet and TV should be registered in a special register that will be operated by the state and the name of which will be announced later this year.

The new amendments include the provision that foreign companies, foreign citizens or Russian citizens with citizenship of another country cannot control more than 20 percent of such video services. These norms, however, will not apply to video services, the content of which is posted exclusively by users, as well as services with a daily audience of less than 100,000 people.

According to the press service of the Russian government, similar rules limiting foreign control in the Russian publishing media have been in force in the country since the beginning of the current year and have already proved their efficiency.

Currently, the number of major online cinema venues operating in Russia is estimated at about two dozen. A significant number of them are wholly or partly owned by foreigners, such as foreign investment funds.

According to an official spokesman of Nikolay Nikiforov, Russia’s Minister of Communications, the introduction of the proposed amendments could force them to leave Russia.

In addition, according to analysts of the ministry and some local experts in the field of and IP rights, final approval of the amendments may also result in the growth of the use of pirated content in Russia. That’s because it will be distributed by providers able to fill the vacant niche who will appear after the departure of foreign providers from the country. The latter, in turn, could result in huge losses of right holders, they said.

According to the analysts, there is a high risk that the majority of users of YouTube and other similar legal content distribution services (which are operated with the participation of foreign providers and which will leave the country), will go to closed networks created by small operators, which mostly use pirated content in their operations. The latter, according to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, will significantly complicate the fight with it and its distributors in Russia.

In the case of YouTube, although the service deals primarily with users’ videos, the content in it is also placed by the rightsholders themselves, among which are TV companies, as well as producers of serials and cartoons. YouTube’s exit from Russia, according to experts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, will result in a rapid increase of the use of pirated content in the country.

An official representative of Google Russia declined to comment, saying that the amendments are poorly worked out, as, according to the company, it is completely incorrect to classify social networks as the platforms for the distribution of audiovisual services.

It is planned that the new amendments may be approved by the Russian national Parliament (State Duma) in September of this year.

Source: Intellectual Property Watch