Warner Bros. becomes first foreign company to use Russian anti-piracy law

Warner Bros. becomes first foreign company to use Russian anti-piracy law
Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California (Image: Mateusz Kudła under a CC licence)

20 August 2015

US entertainment giant Warner Bros. has become the first foreign company to make use of Russia’s anti-piracy legislation, according to a statement by media watchdog Roskomnadzor.

Warner Bros. applied to the Moscow City Court in an attempt to stop the illegal distribution of its film Entourage by Russian torrent websites. The film was released on 30 July in Russia.

“Roskomnadzor received the decision of the Moscow City Court made on the basis of claims of foreign rights-holder, Warner Bros. Entertainment,” read the statement by Roskomnadzor.

As a result of the court’s decision, 16 website owners have restricted access to the film, while four others have been ordered to remove all illegal content before 24 August. If they fail to do so, they face having their websites blocked.

Before bringing the case before the court, Warner Bros. attempted to resolve the matter through informal means. Representatives of the company requested that the websites remove the illegal content, but received no response.

The Russian anti-piracy legislation that allows the authorities to block websites that contain illegally distributed films came into effect on 1 August 2013. In May 2015 the law was changed to allow those that hold the rights to films to apply directly to the owners of the websites hosting the offending illegal material. In accordance with this change, website owners must now publish their contact information. If no reply is received, rights-holders can file a lawsuit. Following the court’s decision, Roskomnadzor gives website providers three days to remove the prohibited content. If it is not removed, the website is blocked for 15 days. If the rights-holder is forced to file a second lawsuit, the website can be blocked indefinitely.

Lina Gevorgyan, a lawyer at Webkontrol, the firm that represented Warner Bros. in court, stated that the American film corporation is not seeking to have the websites blocked, but hopes for a decision that will force the website owners to remove illegal copies of the film and prevent them from uploading it again.

Roskomnadzor applauded the case as a successful application of the law.

“Major foreign rights-holders have begun to use Russian anti-piracy legislation to protect their rights, thereby proving the demand for this law and its effectiveness,” said the statement by Roskomnadzor.

In the two years since the enactment of the Russian anti-piracy legislation, Roskomnadzor has received 401 decisions from the Moscow City Court against 1,102 websites, of which 177 are currently blocked. The law covers not only video content, but also illegal book, music and software distribution.