Kremlin uses software piracy laws to shut down dissident media outlets

The Kremlin is using Russia's new anti-software-piracy laws to target dissident media outlets and shut them down. This is an eerie echo of the Soviet era, when black marketeering and other universal activities were used as the excuse for arresting dissidents and other inconvenient people.

The difference is that this time, the anti-piracy laws were enacted at the behest of the US trade representative, who made stringent patent and copyright enforcement a condition of the recent US-Russia free trade agreement, forcing Russia to take on board stricter laws than those in place in the US. This includes laws that would never pass Constitutional muster stateside, like a scheme for police licensing and inspection of CD and DVD presses. Imagine that: Russia reinstates state control over the press at the behest of the US government! The Framers of the Constitution would be very proud, I'm sure.

The thing is that everyone in Russia is an infringer, which means that everyone is guilty of breaking these strict new anti-piracy laws. That means that anyone can be arrested for being a pirate, so there's no need to gin up a law against dissent, political organizing, homosexuality, or looking cross-eyed at a cop.

It's true in the US, too. Everyone's an infringer. At every talk I give, I say, "Is there anyone in this room who isn't a copyright criminal?" No one ever puts up a hand -- not at universities, law schools, technology conferences, or at motion picture studios.

Once everyone is a criminal, no one is free.

In the past 10 months, police in at least five Russian cities have raided the offices of media outlets, political parties and private advocacy groups and seized computers allegedly containing illegal software, paralyzing the work of the organizations. Often, authorities demand that employees submit to questioning and order them not to leave town until legal action is completed...

"This is not a campaign against piracy, it's a campaign against dissent," said Vitaly Yaroshevsky, a deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow, who is in charge of the newspaper's regional editions. "The authorities want to destroy an opposition newspaper. It doesn't matter if we send more computers to Samara. It doesn't matter if we show we bought computers legally. It will change nothing." The paper says it believes its software is legal.

Link (via /.)

See also:
US Trade Representative bends Russia over on copyright
USA: Russia can't enter WTO unless it shuts down music website


  1. Kamapuaa, there was nothing here that said explicitly that copyright law results in political repression.

    All Cory said was “Once everyone is a criminal, no one is free.” There’s nothing inflammatory here other than pointing out the obvious fact that Russia is regressing into its old ways.

    I, however, am willing to take that thought further and say that a law that no one keeps is a bad law that does more harm than good. We need to reform our copyright law and make it address and allow for common sense usage of copyrighted works by digital age consumers.

  2. Copyright is a need in a capitalist society. People would, and do, rip off others inventions calling it their own.

    However it is also an evil to a social environment, like the open-source society, and others who respect others.

    It’s sad to see a simple idea turned into such a monster beyond its original plans.

  3. “Boing Boing is more interested in promoting their agenda than the truth.”

    What is Boing Boing’s agenda? Does Cory seek to destroy copyright law so he can publish all his science fiction stories for free? Do tell.

  4. Boingboing’s agenda is that repression is wrong, m’kay? Something that Kamapuaa seems to have a problem with, for some reason.

  5. @Matt Glaman: “Copyright is a need in a capitalist society. People would, and do, rip off others inventions calling it their own.”

    Not convinced that this is true.

    @Kampauu “Boing Boing is promoting a totally ridiculous false dichotomy here. There is nothing fundamental to honoring copyrights that results in political repression.”

    True, but as Cory noted he’s talking about the effects of a specific set of laws that the U.S. has been forcing on other countries that would never pass muster within the U.S. itself. *That* is a blueprint for repression.

  6. It’s true in the US, too. Everyone’s an infringer. At every talk I give, I say, “Is there anyone in this room who isn’t a copyright criminal?” No one ever puts up a hand — not at universities, law schools, technology conferences, or at motion picture studios.

    Uh, waittaminute. “Everyone in the US” is not a subset of “everyone at every talk Cory gives.”

    I know I haven’t attended one of his talks. And I strongly suspect that my grandmother hasn’t, either.

    That’s an overly broad generalization. Nevertheless, the point is well made about a police state using overly broad laws.

  7. @ the other Micheal

    Sure you are technically correct, there are many homeless people who have probably not violated any copyright law but to say virtually everyone who has a computer is no broad generalization, honestly, just about anyone who has the ability to rip CDs has in the past, and then went on to give said ripped CD to someone outside of your household.


    Umm, you seem to be making a straw man out of Doctorow by insisting that he is saying that copyright is a necessary tool of repression, well, he’s not.

    I honestly don’t believe ever suddenly became less repressive when it became capitalist. Sure, Putin and Yeltsin are a lot less repressive than Stalin, they are not any better than Gorbachev or Khrushchev, and Stalin certainly wasn’t any worse than the tsars, in conclusion, corruption in Russia is almost entirely unnaffected by whatever economic system it has in place.

    Secondly, I do believe copyright in some markets is neccessary in capitalism. Let’s say you create a kick-ass computer game to start up your new company, unfortunately, EA can make that game for a lot cheaper and drive you out of the market, leaving programmers to being forced to work for the giants if they want to see a dime. Now you could stop this with regulation, but that regulation will either be an awful lot like copyright or it will just start putting things under public control, either way meaning that copyright is a necessary part of capitalism. It’s ironic that you hear this argument a lot more from the evil giant corporations that this article attacks.

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