Russian officials are beginning to investigate other methods to keep Russia’s government and companies operating in the face of penalties. One option under consideration is the legalization of some types of software piracy.
With Russian sanctions beginning to show their impact, the Kremlin is considering measures to keep companies and the government running. The most recent example is a novel take on the national seizure of assets, in which, rather than the government seizing the refineries, for instance, Russia is contemplating legalizing unauthorized copying. Russian legislation already permits the government to authorize the use of any property rights “in event of an emergency connected to safeguarding the defense and stability of the region” – “even without the approval of the patent owner.” According to an article from Russian business journal Kommersant, seen and interpreted by Kyle Mitchell, a lawyer who specializes in technology law, the government has not yet taken the next step, but it may shortly. It’s yet another symptom of a growing Cyber Curtain.
According to Kommersant, the proposal would establish “a contributory infringement structure for programs, database, and technologies for interconnected microelectronic devices.” This would only relate to firms based in sanctioned nations. While the report does not mention names, numerous prominent Western corporations, many of which are potential targets, have dramatically reduced their operations in Russia. So far, Microsoft has ceased distribution of goods and services in Russia, Apple has ceased shipments of devices, and Samsung has ceased selling both computers and processors.
Any action by the Kremlin to “confiscate” intellectual property would likely omit Chinese enterprises, which are allegedly exploring how to use their edge. Xiaomi and Honour, as well as Chinese manufacturers, actually benefit. However, any profits are not assured because doing business in Russia has grown fraught with issues ranging from operations to economics.
According to Igor Slabykh of the Institute of Contemporary Russia, the country earlier exploited Winnie the Pooh in 1969 for a cartoon of the same title. According to Slabykh, the government did so without the authorization of its copyright holders, despite the fact that the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic’s civil code bans such an action. In his research, Slabykh also stated that software piracy is so prevalent in Russia that even judicial authorities are questioning the necessity to spend more for real goods when its imitation equivalent is inexpensive.