On Thursday, 1,700 Russian websites went dark in opposition to a new anti-piracy law enabling the Russian government to ‘blacklist’ websites hosting copyright-breaching material.
The new law, which is being compared to the American SOPA bill, allows Roskomnadzor (the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications) to ‘blacklist’ websites at the order of a court. Also similar to SOPA is the response rendered by the Internet to this new law – namely, that 1,700 websites in the country chose to go offline in demonstration of their opposition.
Campaigners in the country share concerns similar to those of America over the SOPA bill – that it may be used, ultimately, to restrict information and communication on the Internet. Participators in the blackout temporarily replaced their homepages with a warning, including a link to a government petition. While the petition has acquired 76,000 signatures so far, parliament will not consider it unless it reaches 100,000.
The new law covers intellectual materials such as films and TV shows, although strangely discludes music, which certainly numbers among the most pirated forms of media. At the request of copyright owners, websites are required to take down allegedly offending materials until a court can review the request. If the material is not removed within three days of the request, then Roskomnadzor will order ISPs to block the website entirely.
The potential for this law to be abused is immediately apparent to citizens abroad. While 1,700 innocent websites might not suddenly blink out of existence (as the blackout might suggest), the law is already an extension of an earlier change in the Act for Information which gave Roskomnadzor the power to remove more harmful content, such as information on drugs, self-harm and child abuse.
That law has been twisted to grant the government just a little more power – who knows if it will be twisted yet again?