New legislation that threatens Internet pirates with jail terms of up to 5 years took effect in Russia, as Moscow presses its drive to join the World Trade Organization, an AFP report said.
The AFP report said the tough amendment to Russia's copyright protection law was approved by lawmakers in July 2004 and was aimed specifically at cracking down on illegal distribution through the Internet of text, music and video in mp3 format, the business daily Kommersant said.
The amendment granted operators of Internet sites in Russia that distribute copyright-protected content two years to register with the authorities and acquire licenses for their activities. The law came into full force last week.
Relatively lax intellectual property protection in Russia has been a major stumbling block to the country's WTO bid. The US, one of the only countries still refusing to endorse Russia's WTO entry, has cited intellectual property protection as one of its chief concerns.
Kommersant said Russian Internet site operators have actually registered with authorities as required, and cited estimates that around 97% of music files shared over the Internet in Russia today are illegal.
Legal sales of copyright-protected music over the Internet are estimated at less than $1 million per year in Russia at present, while the real value of music traded online is believed to be between $25 million and $30 million.
The new legislation marks an important political success for Economic Development Minister German Gref, who Kommersant noted has lobbied for years to get tougher intellectual property protection laws on the books.