New East Digital Archive

Online libraries go black to protest Russia’s anti-piracy law

Online libraries go black to protest Russia's anti-piracy law
A mock-up of the blackout screen proposed by an anonymous programmer on Habrahabr

3 July 2013

A group of three of Russia’s most popular online libraries “blackened” their websites yesterday in protest of the controversial new law which aims to combat internet piracy. Visitors to Filibusta, Maxima Library and CoolLib — all three hosts of pirated e-books — were redirected to identical black error-screens with an image that read “Error 451F” — a reference to writer Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Farenheit 451, set in a future USA where books are banned.

The screen also contained a link to an online petition, which currently has more than 88,000 signatures, and a message, which said: “The State Duma is working on a series of laws which will allow bureaucrats to block any RuNet website. Quickly, and without consequences … What to do? Protest. On their side is money, power and congenital brain failure. On ours — technology, science and the aspirations of millions of people.”

The first stage of the bill, which was passed by the lower house of parliament earlier this month, is due to come into effect on 1 August. If passed, the bill, which still needs to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law, would allow for the blocking of websites suspected of illegally hosting copyrighted material without a court order.

The error message on Filibusta, Maxima Library and CoolLib on 2 July 2013

Under the law, complaints would need to be lodged with the Moscow City Court, which would then set a deadline for a formal suit to be filed. Even before court proceedings begin, the website in question would be obliged to remove the allegedly copyright-infringing content from its pages within three days. For now, the law targets websites that host illegal films, television shows and video productions, but not music. Critics have argued that the law could result in overblocking. “This approach, which shows ignorance of the underlying technology, puts the very existence of internet search engines in jeopardy,” wrote the Russian internet giant Yandex in a blog post. “It’s the same as closing down a highway permanently after a single accident has happened.”

Earlier this month, Look at Media, the company behind Look at Me and The Village, blocked access to their portfolio of websites for an hour with a message saying: “This is pretty much what it will be like come August 1.” Speaking to The Calvert Journal at the time, Look at Media co-founder Alex Amyotov said the law was “bad and overly rigid”. He added: “We invite all to think about changing it otherwise it will destroy the Russian internet.”

Rublacklist, an internet watchdog linked to the Russian Piracy Party, has called for a widespread “internet strike” on 1 August. In response, Russian programmers have teamed up to develop an application that would enable the strike and allow websites to easily black out their screens.

Last July, Wikipedia shut down its Russian-language page for a day to protest against a law that was eventually passed in November last year. The “internet blacklist law” ostensibly claims to protect children from harmful online content although its detractors argue that it gives authorities the power to force certain websites offline without a trial.

A user on Habrahabr, a collaborative IT website, wrote the following about the raft of internet laws: “Both the upcoming and the already adopted laws are not aimed at solving the problems of modern copyright. Anti-piracy rhetoric is being used as a cover for the censorship and closing off of the RuNet.”

In January 2012, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, both US anti-piracy bills, were shelved following a coordinated online blackout by a group of thousands of internet companies that include Wikipedia and Reddit.

Source: Global Voices