European body publishes Internet Piracy study

The European Audiovisual Observatory, part of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, has just released its latest IRIS plus report – Answers to Internet Piracy – which offers an analysis of the what is being done to combat piracy in Europe, with a special focus on Russia, recently named in a priority watch list by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) in its written submission to the Office of the US Trade Representative, listing countries that it believes should be monitored regarding movie, music, video game and software piracy.

The lead article of this report – Fighting Internet Piracy in Russia, the legal framework and its development – is authored by Dmitry Golovanov of the Moscow Media Law and Policy Centre. The article begins by detailing recent legal events in the fight against piracy in Russia such as the blacklisting of the ‘Russian equivalent of Facebook’, VKontakte.ru, by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or indeed the first ever case of a VKontakte user becoming a suspect in a criminal case for illegally uploading audio files.

The author then proceeds to examine the regulatory principles applying to the Internet in Russia and their interpretation. Golovanov states that “Russia lacks a comprehensive special law on the protection of intellectual property rights on the Internet as well as regulation of the Internet itself.” Current legislative action is based therefore on a combination of provisions contained in the Russian constitution, the civil code, various Supreme Court Resolutions and the Federal Statute “On information, information technologies and protection of information”.

Russia is an observer to the World Trade Organisation and will in all probability become a member in 2012. As a result, the country will have to bring national legislation into line with the WTO agreements including TRIPS. As part of the accession agreement, Russia has already agreed to “take action against […] websites (with servers located in the Russian federation) that promote illegal distribution of content.”

Golovanov then goes on to look at the controversial practice of Russian courts in cases involving Internet sites, stating that contradictory rulings are often made and that Russian Internet companies and rightsholders often complain that courts simply do not know how to resolve disputes in this area. The report points out the inherent contradictions in the Russian law, which does not “require Internet companies to monitor the legality of the conduct of their users, but […] does not prevent the courts from holding them liable for not doing so…”

Moving on to look at initiatives of concerned parties aimed at legislation reforms, the author concludes that, in the light of the aforementioned legal incoherencies, a sea change is currently taking place in Russian legislation. This may be seen in “the recent efforts of the high courts to form unified law-enforcing practice and […] initiatives aimed at reforming the national system of intellectual property lawn namely the recent draft law amending the Civil Code.” On an international level, Golovanov points out that Russian’s involvement in the WTO discussions and Medvedev’s plans to bring international intellectual property law into line with the Digital Age requirements “may also improve the effectiveness of intellectual property law protection under the national system.”

The Related Reporting section of this new publication provides overview articles on the European Commission’s approach to the public domain, the French reflections on broadening HADOPI’s scope of action and on various case law in the field of copyright from the EU, Sweden, Germany, Spain and France.

The final Zoom section, compiled by the Observatory focuses on the Council of Europe’s legal instruments concerning the field of copyright protection on the Internet, including the Council’s Convention on Cybercrime currently in force in 31 different European countries.

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