Russia declares hacking legal as Western sanctions continue

With an increasing number of Western companies going out of business with Russia, residents of the country are running out of options to access entertainment from the rest of the world. The Russian government has therefore declared piracy legal, freeing Russian individuals and entities from patent law.

Rumor of talks in the Kremlin to ease hacking laws as sanctions continue first surfaced earlier this week. A government document entitled “Priority action plan to ensure the development of the Russian economy under the conditions of pressure from external sanctions”, consulted by TorrentFreak, proposed to legalize downloads of unofficial software for which there is no Russian alternative, for example. Other Russian political discussions have proposed reopening RuTracker, a hugely popular torrent site that has long been blocked by Russian ISPs.

Today, local Russian media are reporting that the Kremlin has given the green light to Russian companies to use intellectual property from outside the country without paying patent holders. That is, regarding piracy, the official position of the Russian government is of course, go ahead.

IP à la carte — Since the flow of information in and out of Russia is currently very limited, it is difficult to determine the extent of the Kremlin’s new pro-piracy stance. We know about the bill, for example, but that explicitly only covers productivity software. All other allowances – for TV shows or video games, for example – are only implied, as far as we know.

The government-backed newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, is the first tweeted on the bill on March 3, including a note that politician Dmitry Ionin had asked the state to unblock RuTracker so he could download Hollywood movies. The same publication now reports that the Kremlin has accepted the proposal.

“This will mitigate the market impact of disruptions in supply chains, as well as the shortage of goods and services due to new sanctions from Western countries,” Russia’s Economic Development Ministry told local reporters.

But the internet— As long as Western publishers refuse to do business in Russia, residents of the country have no way to access the Western world’s media wealth without resorting to piracy. Citizens would have turned to torrents whether they were legalized or not.

On the contrary, Internet access may pose more problems for Russians than intellectual property. Last week, US internet carrier Cogent Communications withdrew from Russia in a bid to prevent its networks from being used for cyberattacks or spreading propaganda. Lumen, another US ISP, said this week it would do the same.

Whether the piracy is legal or not, Russians will not be able to access any media without internet access. Or news, for that matter.