Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, likely aware that consumers still want access to Western movies and TV shows that are now mostly banned, is considering unblocking major piracy sites.
Russian officials have been calling for the mass distribution of pirated content since March 2023, with the aim of “inflicting maximum damage” on Western companies. Content firms like Netflix and HBO suspended their activities in the country after it invaded Ukraine.
“If they’ve left us, Netflix and others, it means we will be downloading and using this [their content] for free,” Russia’s deputy head of its Security Council Dmitry Medvedev told Russian media outlets back then.
“I would scatter this content all over the internet to inflict maximum damage on them. Maximum so they would go bankrupt.”
Now, Moscow seemingly wants to go one step further and, to all intents and purposes, legalize piracy. Obviously, in a very Russian way.
According to RIA Novosti, the Ministry of Digital Development is considering the possibility of lifting restrictions on websites that illegally show content from Western companies, not officially active in Russia.
"The ministry is working on proposals to abandon restrictions on access to sites that provide unlicensed video content of Western firms,” the source said.
There will allegedly be conditions. The content should not be legally available on Russian streaming services, for example. It should also not be shown in cinemas and “contain extremist LGBT materials and propaganda.”
Already in January, Russian lawmakers started drafting a bill that would legalize showing pirated content in cinemas around the country. Films like The Batman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Avatar: The Way of Water have been released in Russia without the consent of their rights holders.
But what’s proposed now is in essence full-scale state-sponsored piracy, designed so that Russian consumers could have their cake and eat it too. It’s no secret supply is scarce.
In March, an RBC-commissioned study showed that the number of Hollywood-produced films and TV series offered by legal streaming services in Russia has been slashed by 40-50%.
The reason, of course, is the mass withdrawal of content licenses by studios that have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian market is trying to stay above water by acquiring more content from South Korea, Turkey, India, and China.
Meanwhile censorship in legal streaming sites is prevalent. This week, Olga, a popular Russian TV series, was removed from the TNT channel site and its streaming service after its star, actress Yana Troyanova, spoke out against the invasion. Troyanova had already left the country.
More from Cybernews:
Subscribe to our newsletter