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Russia Enters Brave New World of Tightened Copyright Laws for Music

New amendments to Russia’s copyright law are coming into effect as of May 1, extending copyright protection measures, previously applied only to video content, to music. The tightening of the copyright law in the online video realm has given a boost to sales of legitimate online videos, prompting the music industry to hope for a similar scenario.

Under the new amendments, a procedure for blocking a website allegedly containing illegitimate music at a rights holder’s request will become easier and quicker. No court ruling would be necessary for that.

Owners of websites containing allegedly illegitimate content will have the right to defend themselves in court, but if they lose two cases to rights holders, their websites will be permanently shut down.

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The adoption of the amendments in November 2014 has already prompted several major players, such as the social networking website VKontakte, known for illegitimate user-generated music content, to make steps towards legitimate operation.

Earlier this year, it removed an option for streaming user-uploaded music tracks from its iPad and iPhone applications. Also, VKontakte is reportedly in negotiations with rights owners working towards gradually replacing all user-generated music with legitimate content.

Russian authorities have provided statistics showing the success of anti-piracy steps in the realm of online videos, which came into force in August 2013. Alexei Volin, deputy communications minister, said last month that online sales of movies and television shows had doubled over the last 18 months, while the number of users buying legitimate online content has risen dramatically to 12 million people.

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This data comes as a good sign for rights holders in the music industry, who have welcomed the amendments.

“We are very glad that the anti-piracy law has been finally extended to cover music,” Alexei Kozin, general director of the Russian label Navigator Records, was quoted as saying by the online newspaper Gazeta.ru. “The music industry can now expect a serious boost as we have a major instrument for protecting our copyright.”

He added that while before the adoption of the amendments, online pirates ignored rights holders’ invitation to dialog, now they are prepared to negotiate in a move towards making their operation legitimate.