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MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) – A new bill allowing for websites to be blocked if they contain any copyright-infringing content was introduced in the Russian parliament on Tuesday, expanding an earlier law against film piracy that was met with considerable public outcry.
The earlier law, which came into force in August, allowed copyright holders to seek the blacklisting of websites they accuse of hosting pirated films and television shows without contacting the uploader or obtaining a formal court ruling on the legality of the content.
It also allowed the banning of whole IP addresses – which are often shared by hundreds of websites, all of which fall under a ban if one of them is blacklisted – and made enforcing the bans the responsibility of Internet service providers.
The new bill would allow banning by URL – the individual address of a webpage – and would ease sanctions for “informational intermediaries” such as hosting providers and search engines involved in providing access to copyright-infringing content.
The draft law also seeks to require copyright holders to contact uploaders of questioned content before requesting the authorities to blacklist allegedly pirated videos or software.
The bill was drafted by two of the earlier law’s co-authors. However, its immediate prospects remain unclear: A senior lawmaker on Tuesday called the bill “premature” and said similar legislative changes were to be included in the upcoming amendment package for Russia’s Civil Code.
The bill was also criticized by both copyright holders and advocates of Internet freedom. A spokesman for Russia’s unregistered Pirate Party slammed the draft for still allowing bans by IP address, while a representative for the National Music Industry Federation disapproved of the softening of blacklisting rules.
A petition to cancel the law against film piracy gathered 100,000 signatures in August, mandating a formal governmental review of the proposal. However, neither the Cabinet nor the Russian parliament has since indicated any willingness to accede to the petition’s demands.
Since last November, Russian governmental agencies are allowed, without court order, to ban websites found promoting suicide, child pornography or illegal drugs. However, a spokesman for state telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor conceded on Tuesday that the blacklisting – which is usually enforced by IP address – is an ineffective measure because it also victimizes innocent websites.
Almost 99 percent of the 35,500 websites on the national blacklist host no illegal content and are victims of the imperfect blacklisting mechanism, according to online Internet watchdog Rublacklist.net.
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Some people are trying to make the reality in Russia at least a bit more humane. The amnesty should apply not only to persons involved in high-profile cases, but also to individuals who are not as well-known. It is better to set free at least some of the individuals who deserve to be released than no one at all.