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Monday, September 04, 2006
Russia enacts tough Internet piracy law


New legislation that threatens Internet pirates with jail terms of up to five years took effect in Russia, as Moscow presses its drive to join the World Trade Organization

The tough amendment to Russia's copyright protection law was approved by lawmakers in July 2004 and was aimed specifically at cracking down on illegal distribution through the Internet of text, music and video in mp3 format, the business daily Kommersant said Friday.

The amendment granted operators of Internet sites in Russia that distribute copyright-protected content two years to register with the authorities and acquire licenses for their activities. The law came into full force on Friday.

Relatively lax intellectual property protection in Russia has been a major stumbling block to the country's WTO bid. The United States, one of the only countries still refusing to endorse Russia's WTO entry, has cited intellectual property protection as one of its chief concerns.

Kommersant said Russian Internet site operators have actually registered with authorities as required, and cited estimates that around 97 percent of music files shared over the Internet in Russia today are illegal.

Legal sales of copyright-protected music over the Internet are estimated at less than one million dollars per year in Russia at present, while the real value of music traded online is believed to be between 25 and 30 million dollars, the paper said.

The new legislation marks an important political success for Economic Development Minister German Gref, who Kommersant noted has lobbied for years to get tougher intellectual property protection laws on the books.

Negotiations between Russia and the United States on Moscow's WTO membership -- thought likely to have been completed in time for the G8 summit hosted by Russia in July -- are continuing, with Russian officials saying they expect a deal by October.

Russia is the only major economy still not a member of the 149-country WTO. While the Kremlin insists it wants to join, officials also made clear earlier this year that Russia was prepared to forego WTO membership if it ran counter to the country's economic interests. ? AFP New legislation that threatens Internet pirates with jail terms of up to five years took effect in Russia, as Moscow presses its drive to join the World Trade Organization.

The tough amendment to Russia's copyright protection law was approved by lawmakers in July 2004 and was aimed specifically at cracking down on illegal distribution through the Internet of text, music and video in mp3 format, the business daily Kommersant said Friday.

The amendment granted operators of Internet sites in Russia that distribute copyright-protected content two years to register with the authorities and acquire licenses for their activities. The law came into full force on Friday.

Relatively lax intellectual property protection in Russia has been a major stumbling block to the country's WTO bid. The United States, one of the only countries still refusing to endorse Russia's WTO entry, has cited intellectual property protection as one of its chief concerns.

Kommersant said Russian Internet site operators have actually registered with authorities as required, and cited estimates that around 97 percent of music files shared over the Internet in Russia today are illegal.

Legal sales of copyright-protected music over the Internet are estimated at less than one million dollars per year in Russia at present, while the real value of music traded online is believed to be between 25 and 30 million dollars, the paper said.

The new legislation marks an important political success for Economic Development Minister German Gref, who Kommersant noted has lobbied for years to get tougher intellectual property protection laws on the books.

Negotiations between Russia and the United States on Moscow's WTO membership -- thought likely to have been completed in time for the G8 summit hosted by Russia in July -- are continuing, with Russian officials saying they expect a deal by October.

Russia is the only major economy still not a member of the 149-country WTO. While the Kremlin insists it wants to join, officials also made clear earlier this year that Russia was prepared to forego WTO membership if it ran counter to the country's economic interests.


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