Since March 2023, Russian officials have been advocating for the widespread distribution of pirated content with the explicit goal of causing significant harm to Western companies. As a result of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, content providers like Netflix and HBO suspended their operations in Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, stated that if these companies have abandoned Russia, it implies that their content will be freely downloaded and used by Russian citizens. He expressed a desire to scatter this content across the internet to inflict maximum damage, with the aim of bankrupting these companies.

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Now, it appears that Moscow intends to take its piracy efforts to the next level by effectively legalizing piracy in a uniquely Russian manner. According to RIA Novosti, the Ministry of Digital Development is exploring the option of removing restrictions on websites that illegally host content from Western companies that are not officially active in Russia.

The source stated that the ministry is working on proposals to eliminate access restrictions on websites offering unlicensed video content from Western firms. However, certain conditions would apply, such as the content not being legally available on Russian streaming services and not being screened in cinemas. Furthermore, it should not contain extremist LGBT materials or propaganda.

As early as January, Russian lawmakers began drafting a bill that would legalize the screening of pirated content in cinemas throughout 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.

What is currently being proposed is essentially state-sponsored piracy, aimed at allowing Russian consumers to enjoy pirated content without repercussions. The motivation behind this move is the scarcity of content in Russia.

A study commissioned by RBC in March revealed that the availability of Hollywood-produced films and TV series on legal streaming services in Russia has decreased by 40-50%. This decline is a result of studios withdrawing content licenses in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. To compensate for this loss, the Russian market is increasingly relying on content from South Korea, Turkey, India, and China.

Furthermore, censorship is prevalent on legal streaming sites. Just recently, the popular Russian TV series called “Olga” was removed from the TNT channel site and its streaming service after the show’s star, actress Yana Troyanova, voiced her opposition to the invasion. Troyanova had already left the country.

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