MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti) – Russian lawmakers fast-tracked a bill on Friday which will allow courts to order the blocking of websites hosting suspect pirated movies, despite an outcry from the internet industry.
The bill – which has been compared to the much-lambasted US Stop Online Piracy Act, which has been stalled in the US Congress since 2012 – passed in one day in two readings in the State Duma, the lower house of the federal parliament.
It is now expected to come into effect in August, following approval by the upper house and a presidential signature.
The bill allows copyright holders instant recourse to the courts over suspected pirated content, without first trying to contact the website hosting it.
Courts will be able to order such content to be removed, even before passing a formal ruling on whether it has been distributed legally.
If a website fails to comply, its IP address could be blacklisted in Russia. This measure, already used in existing Russian blacklists, is technically flawed because every IP address is normally used by several unrelated websites, all of which end up on the blacklist if one of them is banned.
The bill was introduced earlier this month by four lawmakers, including an actress, a film director, an opera singer and a PR specialist.
The original draft of the bill covered all forms of copyrighted content, but the bill’s scope was narrowed to films following a review.
The bill's authors have not consulted the Russian telecoms industry, and lawmakers rejected all proposals by its main lobby group, the Russian Association for Electronic Communication (RAEC), ahead of the crucial second reading on Friday.
“Effective copyright protection is crucial for developing a modern economy in Russia,” Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak, who backed the bill, was cited by the Duma’s website as saying on Friday.
But the RAEC claimed in several statements that the bill is ridden with loopholes and was shifting the costs of fighting piracy to internet service providers and hosting companies, which could cripple Russia’s thriving internet industry.
“It is lobbying by copyright holders,” an industry representative told RIA Novosti on condition of anonymity.