Russian Law Could Hold ISPs Responsible For Piracy

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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Changes introduced to the Civil Code will wipe out local file-sharing networks

Last week, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev introduced changes to the country’s Civil Code that would hold ISPs responsible for illegal content exchanged between their users.

Shortly after, rather than focusing on Internet piracy, the cybercrime department of the Interior Ministry launched a campaign designed to check just how much illegal sharing is going on inside the country’s local networks.

At first, ISPs were up in arms, but after examining the proposed changes, Russian media concluded they will simply bring the country’s legislation up to speed with the rest of the world.

Like in the 90s

According to, many smaller Russian ISPs are using local file-sharing networks to attract customers. This is old-school, pre-torrent piracy, that uses software clients such as DC++ to access Direct Connect networks, and requires users to designate a portion of their hard drive for sharing. Users of these networks can share whatever content they have, and download whatever content they can find directly from other users.

Local network audits that search for illegal content are currently being conducted across the whole of Russia. Their results will be published between April and May, possibly followed by a string of court cases.

Currently, both Internet piracy and distribution of child pornography carry the same punishment – prison term of up to six years. Knowing this, many Russian ISPs have already disabled their file-sharing services.

If the changes announced by Medvedev pass through the State Duma (the Russian parliament), ISPs could find themselves punished for facilitating piracy as early as September.

Aleksey Dmitriev, CEO of ISP Iskratelecom, has called the government focus on local networks illogical: “There is nothing you can do on the local network that you cannot do on the Internet.”

“If the Interior Ministry wants to take the ISPs under control, it shows the lack of real power: it is easier to deal with thousands of ISPs than millions of individual users that share illegal content,” he added.

However, after studying the proposed changes to the Civil Code in detail, concluded that they don’t pose immediate danger to businesses or Internet users. The new law gives service providers plenty of room to manoeuvre, as it will not punish ISPs who “did not know, and didn’t have to know” about illegal file-sharing in their networks, and didn’t participate in the creation of the illegal content. The sites specialising in hosting user-generated content, similar to YouTube or Flickr, will also be exempt from the law.

There is one new requirement that all providers will have to comply with in order to stay on the good side of the law. If the changes go ahead, ISPs will have to delete the copyright infringing content when it gets reported by copyright holder in writing.

The cybercrime department, which is now investigating local network piracy, recently arrested one of the most dangerous hacker gangs in the country after they stole up to £94.5 million.

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