Facing sanctions, Russia mulls law change to allow piracy; report

The Russian government is considering a change to its laws to allow software piracy, as sanctions imposed as a result of its aggression towards Ukraine start to bite.

According to a Torrent Freak report, Russia's Ministry of Economic Development has developed proposals that would if adopted undermine copyright, patent and trademark protection – at least for companies that it considers are acting against Russian interests.

Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Oracle, Ubisoft, and EA are among the software companies that have suspended and restricted operations in Russia, including sales and technical support, in protest at its invasion of Ukraine.

Allowing piracy would be one way that Russia could fight back against the sanctions, albeit at the expense of further damage to the country's reputation for ignoring the rule of law, shifting it ever further towards being a pariah state.

The measure would free companies that use pirated software from civil and criminal liability for programmes "owned by a copyright holder from countries that have supported the sanctions."

The question is whether it will make much difference – one analysis conducted by the Institute of Modern Russia estimated that two-thirds of all software used in Russia is pirated, and for decades, the country has been on the US watchlist of the world’s most prolific intellectual rights infringers.

Russia's former president Dmitry Medvedev also warned this week that assets owned by western companies that have pulled out of Russia could be nationalised, in response to the seizure of assets belonging to Russian oligarchs by the European countries and others.

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