Russia's Latest Idea: An Internet Whitelist For Copyright Materials

from the that'll-work dept

Now that Sarkozy has been thrown out of office, France is no longer producing the steady stream of bad proposals for the Internet that it once generated. That has left an opening for some other country to take its place, and it seems that Russia is keen to pick up where Sarkozy left off. We’ve been reporting on previous worrying developments there, and TorrentFreak has news on another one:

According to information obtained by Vedomosti, publishers of music, books and software have put forward amendments [to Russia’s existing anti-piracy law] which will place a huge burden of responsibility not just on regular websites but also on search engines such as Google and local outfit Yandex.

The proposed amendments center around the creation of a national registry listing all music, software and books. This database will then be made available to search engines and site owners who will be required to consult it before servicing their users with links or content.

The idea is to create a huge whitelist of approved sites holding copyright materials, and Web sites and search engines will be obliged to use it when linking to works requested by users. As we reported back in February, one region was planning to try that approach in order to produce a “clean Internet.” That’s clearly impossible, and so is the latest proposal — both in terms putting together a complete whitelist, and trying to refer to it. As Yandex is quoted as saying in the TorrentFreak piece, the idea could have a wider chilling effect on real-time discussions online:

“[If the amendments go through], rightsholders will switch the entire Internet into pre-moderation mode, because sites can not accommodate any comment without full verification of all the materials located on the link in this comment. For the bulk of services, this task is impossible,” Yandex concludes.

And it’s not hard to see where this approach leads: replacing today’s blacklists of sites that are blocked — child pornography being the most obvious category — to one of whitelists, which show the approved sites that aren’t blocked. That’s truly frightening, and not just for Russian users. As we’ve seen time and again, governments around the world have the awful habit of copying each other’s ideas when it comes to regulating the Internet — but usually only the bad ones. If this approach is brought in, it can only be a matter of time before people start calling for the same in other countries, citing Russia as an example of where it has already been implemented.

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Comments on “Russia's Latest Idea: An Internet Whitelist For Copyright Materials”

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29 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

That can be in fact a good idea. But just for the opposite purpose.

One of the biggest problems using non-copyrighted material is that the Copy-Rights Ass. refuse to publish the lists of materials for which they claim to hold rights.

I want that whitelist to use it as a blacklist of copyrighted materials that don’t want anywhere near me!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This, like the british whitelist is a sign that politicians have found a way to legally subvert peoples experiences on the internet. If the whitelists become standard, “the national internet” will be a sandbox created by each country, where only content the taste judges in government can say what you want.

There are 3 further steps before the true vision is truely reached:
1. Illegalize any circumvention!
2. Remove privacy from the internet.
3. All-encompassing surveillance with police-access and free forum shopping for companies with legal claims.

My guess is that China and Russia both want that to accommodate their “traditional value”-fetish.

Chris Brand says:

How big would that list be ?

Even if it is only “music, books, and software” (no video, really ?), that still includes an awful lot of content. How many people record a piece of music each day, or write a piece of software ? Not sure where you’d draw the line for a “book”, but there’s plenty of fan fiction and poems written every day. All of it copyrighted as soon as it’s created, of course.

It would certainly be a very interesting list, if only to see how little the major content companies actually do have the rights to.

It would also be fascinating to see the battles between them (and the creators themselves) about who actually owns what.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: How big would that list be ?

Actually major content companies would love a system like this, as it would absolutely gut the competition.

They can throw a couple dozen lawyers at getting all of their content registered and have it done in a few weeks or so, but your independent musician, writer or artist, who just creates in their spare time, isn’t likely to have the time or resources to jump through all the needed hoops, which means no net-presence for them as far as russia is concerned.

out_of_the_blue says:

Same thing happens with "Safe Browsing" in current Firefox.

It checks with — guess who? — Google!

So, far as the technical aspects: already being done. Shouldn’t at all bother most people, no more than current checking of certificates and so on.

Only tiny point you have is the blacklist / whitelist but it’s literally not a logical distinction: whitelist is actually more practical because fewer to check.

I’d be somewhat concerned over censorship IF there were any logical distinction.

But I’m pretty sure your main objection is this may well be effective against piracy.

Money is already corrupting the system, as Google pays to be whitelisted in the Noscript extension which is a completely false whitewashing of the worst offender everyone should want to block.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Same thing happens with "Safe Browsing" in current Firefox.

Still struggling with the difference between voluntary action, based on services you don’t have to use, and government mandated actions, huh?

“Only tiny point you have is the blacklist / whitelist but it’s literally not a logical distinction: whitelist is actually more practical because fewer to check.”

Nobody questions that. But that’s not the problem being discussed. The problem is clearly outlined in the article.

Is it possible for you to regain the ability to comprehend words? I’m sure that at some point in the past your strawmen actually had some relationship to the article, no matter how tangential.

“Google pays to be whitelisted in the Noscript extension”

Citation needed. No, “they whitelisted YouTube” is not proof of any money.

Either way you have a number of choices – stop using NoScript. Use a competitor. Or use the facility to remove Google from their whitelist. Or get together with a group of fellow paranoid schizophrenics and use the open source code to create your own Google-free competitor.

Stop whining on a forum about conspiracy theories that don’t exist on stories that have to do with government action with no parallels to anything Google can do.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is such a bad idea that I’m not even worried about it. People will find a way to route around the censorship. This will only hurt Russia’s economy and eventually this idea will be abandoned.

After all, wasn’t Frances 3-strikes idea abandoned? US came up with 6-strikes, and now VPN and proxy business is booming.

There’s always the Deep Net if the Shallow Net turns into a Banana Republic.

I want wait until 3D Printers become affordable. Then we’ll really see the hair start flying around.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The problem, I think, is that the international conglomerate of IFPI’s incestuously bred clan doesn’t need a country where 3-strikes works; all they need is a country where 3-strikes (or the people enforcing it) hasn’t turned out to be a complete laughing stock, and with that precedent in hand they’ll encourage (read: force) other countries to take up similar schemes.

The silver lining in all this is that so far, it seems that regardless of country copyright enforcement can’t help but ruin whatever they touch. France’s system was revealed to be inefficient and only accelerated their efforts when threatened; Russia’s own enforcement was found to be engaging in software piracy. By the time they clean house legal alternatives will be part and parcel of everyone’s life routine and gnashing teeth will be all the RIAA can do.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

If this goes through

Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, VK, would be royally screwed. The users on that site are notorious for copyright infringement.

Music? Check! Art? Check! FILM (as in full-length movie feature)? CHECK!

There’s no way that site would be on this “internet whitelist for copyright materials” (terrible concept).

That is of course if the Russian government doesn’t just ignore the whole “copyright” bit of the whitelist and use the thing to censor opposition of the government instead.

As the Zen Master says, “We’ll see.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If this goes through

That is of course if the Russian government doesn’t just ignore the whole “copyright” bit of the whitelist and use the thing to censor opposition of the government instead.

With a whitelist they censor by doing nothing, and have to take action to allow content. It makes controlling what the citizens see so much easier.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: If this goes through

Yeah, exactly. With a whitelist it doesn’t matter how many new domains you create – nobody will see them (whereas a blacklist would have to play whack a mole all the time). The only work would be ensuring that the list is effectively blocked, not dealing with each site on it.

If implemented it also means that the whitelisted sites would become government censors – e.g. if VK is whitelisted, the government can easily threaten them with removal if they don’t censor for them. Any site with a primarily Russian audience would have to play ball or get effectively shut down, while foreign sites with more diverse content might just leave the market entirely and thus remove easy access to more transgressive material. No work for the government – want to have a site seen by Russians? Censor for us.

Anonymous Coward says:

so strange that the really obvious and simple thing to do as far as copyright holders are concerned when their stuff is available on the internet, is to do what customers have been urging for years! the proposal being thought about at the moment is just another nail in the internet coffin. as soon as this proposal gets enabled, the next one will come in. the aim is for copyright holders and no one else to have the power of what is available on the internet and what can be downloaded. they still have the expectation that when no one can get it from the ‘net, everyone is going to flock back to buying the plastic disks. can someone please inform these fucking morons that that isn’t going to happen! get real and wake up! sooner or later, the internet is either going to fail completely, which is what the entertainment industries have wanted since day one, or it had got to fight back. leave it much longer and we can all kiss it goodbye!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Government perspective:

Problem: Creating an accurate whitelist would require expending an absurd amount of resources.
Solution: Create an inaccurate whitelist. Just make sure that everyone who paid up gets on it, and that their competition doesn’t.

Problem: The whitelist would allow extortion, censorship, etc.
Solution: Make sure you’re getting bribed enough, and that the public can’t find out about the bribery.

Problem: The whitelist would not actually wipe out piracy or provide any revenue.
Solution: Use continued piracy and loss of income as an excuse for an even more draconian policy.

Anonymous Coward says:

So how does the whitelist work? What happens when you link to a page describing what to do with a date during a romantic Twilight stroll? Or when you link to a blog run by a 45-year old guy that just happens to be named Harry Potter? And neither of those are actually sharing any copyrighted material other than their own, and therefore have not gone out of their way to get whitelist approval?

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