Russia Is Considering ‘Legalizing’ Software Piracy Due To The World Punishing It Over Ukraine Aggression

from the just-like-that dept

A decade ago, we discussed how the pressure brought against Russia to more greatly enforce copyright laws was a mistake. A mistake mostly because of how Russia would choose to enforce those laws, namely by applying them only against critics of the state or undesirables, whether actual infringement was occurring or not. While Russia’s misuse of copyright laws was utterly predictable, that isn’t really the point of my referencing it. My actual point is that in 2010 Russia decided that enforcing copyright was something it was willing to ramp up.

Which is why it may be a bit jarring, if unsurprising, to see that Russia is considering simply legalizing software piracy as the world decides it doesn’t want to do business with a homicidal, kleptocratic regime.

With sanctions against Russia starting to bite, the Kremlin is mulling ways to keep businesses and the government running. The latest is a creative twist on state asset seizures, only instead of the government taking over an oil refinery, for example, Russia is considering legalizing software piracy.

Russian law already allows for the government to authorize—“without consent of the patent holder”—the use of any intellectual property “in case of emergency related to ensuring the defense and security of the state.” The government hasn’t taken that step yet, but it may soon, according to a report from Russian business newspaper Kommersant, spotted and translated by Kyle Mitchell, an attorney who specializes in technology law. It’s yet another sign of a Cyber Curtain that’s increasingly separating Russia from the West.

Now, this move does make logical sense if you put yourself in the seat of someone in Russian government. That country needs to keep operating and, to do so, it needs or wants to keep using the modern technology produced in large part by the West. Were I Russia, and were I a kleptocrat hell bent on enforcing my will no matter the cost, this move makes sense. You don’t want to sell me your products? I’ll just pirate them instead. I’m already a bad guy on a level not seen in nearly 100 years, so what’s a little copyright infringement on top of that?

But here again we see the pointlessness of trying to push the villains of the world to beef up copyright enforcement. First Russia simply used that as an excuse to go after its own internal enemies. Then it simply wiped the slate clean of its promises the moment it became advantageous to do so. So what was the point of any of this to being with?

This was all a show to begin with, but that doesn’t mean that Putin isn’t once again overplaying his hand. Everyone is assuming that Chinese IP will be exempted from this, as China has predictably been light-handed in its response to Russia’s invasion. But, then again, China’s eyes are on the global economy, of which Russia is becoming a smaller and smaller part, thanks to its own actions.

Plus, although China has been ramping up its criticism of US policies, the Communist Party is likely hesitant to undermine its lucrative stake in global trade. “Chinese companies have much more to lose than to gain by violating sanctions,” analysts at Gavekal Dragonomics said in a research report cited by The Wall Street Journal. “For most Chinese companies, Russia is just too small of a market for the business to be worth the risk of getting cut off from developed markets or being sanctioned itself.”

So, to be clear, this isn’t Techdirt lamenting the lack of copyright enforcement within Russian borders. Instead, this is us both pointing out the rank hypocrisy of the Russian regime and lamenting instead the calories wasted trying to push that hypocritical regime towards copyright enforcement in the first place.

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Comments on “Russia Is Considering ‘Legalizing’ Software Piracy Due To The World Punishing It Over Ukraine Aggression”

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Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

The game of kings

This was all a show to begin with…

Sure was.

Russia will do what it wants. It ALWAYS has. So
This show is a long game of chess.

Eliot Cohen, writing for the Atlantic, suggests Putin is not a master chess player. Begging his pardon, Putin most certainly is one of the best long-game players I’ve seen.

This “new development” is but one of the many that we’ll get to see as the strategies of mitigating the West’s war responses come out. Don’t be surprised at this; don’t be surprised at anything else.

There is a moral here. STAND UP TO THE BULLY and do not whine about how we don’t want to piss him off. It didn’t work with Hitler and it didn’t work with Stalin and it won’t work with Putin.



Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


It didn’t work with Hitler and it didn’t work with Stalin and it won’t work with Putin.

Yeah, see, there’s one slight difference between Putin and the other two: Putin has nuclear weapons.

Not to say that we shouldn’t stand up to Putin⁠—we should. But the calculus for how we stand up to Putin must account for his nuclear arsenal.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: MAD

Stalin didn’t need nuclear weapons. Hitler didn’t need nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong-Un just wants to make sure we don’t Saddam or Khadaffi his butt.
China, France, India, Pakistan, the UK all have nuclear capabilities.

This conversation was had so many times during “the cold war.” MAD was considered to be the answer. The problem with MAD is it required one side to launch. So long as it’s a threat, no MAD. Worse, when one side is afraid the other WILL launch but no launch has occurred, you do have deterrence…. of ANY OF OUR actions.

In the absence of the “line that must not be crossed” there is no limit to what we can expect to see happen here. Politicians call this the red line; lawyers call it a bright line. Still, no line.

Since we don’t know his mind, there is no calculus. We have a gamble, and all we have is past behavior which doesn’t predict future behavior. We can play odds…

OPTION 1: Preemptive strike. With an inept congress filled with infighting and obstruction that’s a nonstarter. So, highly unlikely.
– Bad odds on this one occurring, never mind the effects.

OPTION 2: Do nothing. This has been our strategy long before 2014’s Crimea invasion. It’s lasted through several US administrations. So, very likely.
– The odds are good that this is the choice that will be made, but the results are not a win.

OPTION 3: Wait for him to do something, then we do something. This is pretty much the same as Option 2, except that MAYBE we’ll Nelson Muntz our way out of being Martin Prince. We did that. He took Crimea. We did that. He attacked the Ukraine. We’re doing that. He said “don’t you dare put MiG-29s in the air. We’re still doing exactly what he said. I’d give this one low odds… so maybe 3-6%. – Again, very low odds that we’d do it, EXTREMELY low odds we’d accomplish anything positive as a result.

So, based on -my- back of the cocktail napkin assessment, we are watching a chess master play the twelve moves ahead of us he’s been setting up for since before May of 2012.

“We didn’t see it coming…” reads a headline from sometime in the future.


Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can make long-winded posts about how Putin is a genius all you want. All that matters is this: He has nukes and he is not above escalating his military response to Ukraine’s continued resistance to his invasion. That alone will deter any direct military involvement from any country whose involvement could push Putin into using those nukes.

The U.S. is responding the best way it can. Well, unless you’d like the U.S. to press its luck and see if Putin really does want to kickstart Global Thermonuclear War, that is.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Brevity is the soul of wit

You can make long-winded posts…

Sure I can! Isn’t that greatest thing about UGC? Thank you for not making it about the topic, but about how I express my thoughts. I’ll give you much more courtesy than that.

…about how Putin is a genius all you want.

Again about me… just stop.

He’s a military leader. I didn’t call him a genius. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

All that matters is this:

Now it’s about you and what you think matters.

What matters to you may not be “All that matters” to the other nine billion people on this planet.

He has nukes and he is not above escalating his military response to Ukraine’s continued resistance to his invasion.

Nice shift there. “[M]ilitary response” and “he has nukes”, conflating the two, and the assumption is that this is Ukraine’s fault for “continued resistance” to “his” invasion… brilliant.

I am truly sorry that “Ukraine’s fault” for “continued resistance” to Russia’s “military response” and … um… “He has Nukes.” Blame the victim some more, why don’t you?

It’s not “his” invasion. It’s the Russian Federation invading the sovereign country of Ukraine. Escalating a military response IS likely, but that has nothing to do with “he has nukes.”

The U.S. is responding the best way it can.

“The best way it can”??? What is that, what you tell Coach when you can’t do 20 pushups? Yeah. I responded to you “the best I can.”

Do you have some top-secret information on what the US options are, what options are the best, and what limit those options… I’m just asking for anyone else who wonders if you have any real information… or just invented a conclusion based on … um… er… I don’t know.

Well, unless you’d like the U.S. to press its luck and see if Putin really does want to kickstart Global Thermonuclear War, that is.

Again about me, what I like, etc.

I don’t play video games anymore. That was a great movie though. Matthew Broderick was awesome.

There’s a huge difference between nuclear weapons, strategic nuclear weapons, and thermonuclear weapons. Long-winded things include books, and one day you should try reading one.

Seriously, try not to make it about ME or about YOU and just address the topic. One day maybe I’ll be a TechDirt topic. I hope not, and that day is not today.

Have a good one,


Solidus says:

Re: Re: Re:2

No, it doesn’t work that way.

Atomic weapon launches have been ordered before; the Russian officer in charge counted it as a radar error, and that’s why we still have a planet. Of course, conversely, the MAD strategy works until someone misreads a radar- which is one of the three reasons why NATO is so adamant in not getting involved.

One is the atomic weapons, yeah. The other two are that NATO intends to be seen as predictable by the Russians. NATO defending other countries outside of NATO means two things- first, that NATO membership counts nothing for defense, and thus, there’s no incentive to joining- but also, for the attacker, that it no longer matters whether you attack a NATO or a non-NATO country: even not crossing NATO lines may generate a NATO response, and thus, you’re no longer incentivized not to cross NATO lines.

NATO, for all its flaws, wants to be seen as very, very, very, very, very predictable: it wants Russia to know that it will do this one thing AND ONLY THIS ONE THING. It’s a very clear line in the sand, one which NATO has committed to end all life in the world should it ever get crossed. Ehud insists this makes Putin a genious- NATO would say “Good”. That’s the whole point, it presents him with a bright red line, so long as he stays inside that line, NATO does not respond militarily. If he attacks outside the line because he wants to end the world, NATO will happily oblige and glass whatever he fails to, including his ass- and the ass of everything his officers have ever loved. At that point, he will have his officers as a more immediate issue than NATO. It’s not that he’s a genius, it’s that NATO countries have decided this is the way.

Even if Putin’s not reading this strategy correctly, so long as other Russian officers on other levels are reliably informed of NATO’s commitment to not making a first strike, this strategy will reliably deter Russia. It has to be easily legible at all levels, and thus must remain absolute, and as simple as “NATO will not hit first. NATO defends NATO. NATO does not defend non-NATO. NATO will fucking glass all life in the known universe if touched. You will see NATO coming”.

To Ehud, BTW,
-Stalin needed nukes. So badly, in fact, he committed to making nukes early on.
-Hitler did not need nukes because they did not exist at the time. One could argue he did need them BTW, considering the Reich’s weapons program.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Words in mouths

Ehud insists this makes Putin a genious…

I really don’t think I’ve ever insisted Putin is a genius. I think he is a masterful planner of military strategy (like a chess master). Going to call the Goldwater Rule on that one.

Hitler did not need nukes because they did not exist at the time.
Hitler’s nuclear program (“uranverein”) was started in 1939. His delivery mechanism (the V-2 rocket) was viable in 1942.

The US, hadn’t quite developed warheads that would work on a land-based rocket so the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were deployed from a bomber.

So saying “he didn’t need them because they didn’t exist” is not accurate. He wanted them. He had teams working on them. The Manhattan Project team got there first, and though we couldn’t launch them… we could drop them.

Werner Von Braun was a lead V-2 engineer… who helped kickstart the US space program based on what he’d learned building rockets for Hitler.


Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Ehud, what exactly are you calling for, a US/NATO attack on Russian forces in Russia? On Russian forces in Ukraine?

First, let’s remember that just a guy. I’ve only been elected to be on my HOA board, not the President of the free world. Also I don’t have access to the intel that he does, nor the advisors that can consult.

But hey let’s unpack
– The US should not invade Russia (or any other country).
– The US should support Ukraine forces in defending their country.

How does the US support Ukrainian forces? Anti-tank missiles have already been provided. That just leaves some planes, some AAMRAMs, some SRAAMs (think AIM-9s), and some GBR/XBR systems to provide guidance. That will take care of the threat from above. None of that is as sensitive as more “modern” technology.

What planes? Well the MiG-29s were a good option but obviously NATO has no business here. The US were asked by Ukraine for help, so we do have an excuse if we need one.

We also have some A-10s that Congress keeps wanting to mothball. CAS aircraft can remove the tanks, hold back Russian ground troops, and survive air/air combat.

What do you think the eventual outcome of that would be? How do you think that situation could be concluded without a significant likelihood of an exchange of nuclear weapons?

Again, my opinion: I don’t think Russia will go to its nuclear arsenal over this matter. Am I possibly wrong? Sure.


PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

“The US should support Ukraine forces in defending their country.”

They’re doing that, as are the EU and other members of NATO. What they are not doing is anything that can be interpreted as an act of war against Russia and thus get them, and probably China, engaged in a new World War. That’s why they’ve rejected a no fly zone so far, because the first Russian aircraft brought down for violating that would be considered an act of war even if they’re simply protecting civilian targets from bombing.

“I don’t think Russia will go to its nuclear arsenal over this matter”

Japan didn’t expect that the US would do that. Many people were arguing that Putin would not invade Ukraine 30 seconds before he did. You can’t base military tactics on keeping your fingers crossed and hoping that the other guys won’t go too far. If Putin feels cornered he could very well decide to do something rash on his way down.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:


This is something like the cartels threatening to buy illegal drugs.

Cartels are children in pick-em-up-trucks threatening unarmed farmers.

The Russians use bone saws, and then send the body parts in diplomatic pouches on multiple private planes.

When the Russians want to play rough, it will be rough. Right now, they have barely gotten started.

I’ll say it for the last time: WE MUST STAND UP TO THE BULLY and not sit around saying “Well we don’t want to piss him off further.”

The cartels think they are vicious. The Russians say Nyet.


Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ukraine sits on the 26th largest reserve of oil and gas in the world,

No. It does not.

this has been known for at least a decade.

No, it does not.

Not good enough? See page 12 of British Petroleum’s analysis:

Not good enough? We Number One!!

Not that it really matters. March Madness is coming and I’m not betting on the 26th seed or the 51st seed… it’s kind of irrelevant once you note that past the first few it’s just measly.


Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Anyone Notice?

Does anyone notice that this situation that Russia chooses to take actually brings light on the EVIL of this Country?
[those whom refuse to self-evaluate need not read further into the SPOILER ALERT]
The point where software(pc, device, entertainment) industries want to SHACKLE, CHAIN, RESTRAIN, Bring into SLAVERY/BONDAGE, et al. any and everyone that they can.
To the tune of: “if one does NOT have an Internet connection, you can not use what you purchased; if can not LOG IN you can not use what you purchased; if you have expired CC# on file, you can not use what you purchased; one can not receive updates (on purposefully poorly compiled wares) you can not use what you purchased.”
Also, with the institution of Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt (FUD) by said industries, enforcing the blind acceptance of even more poorly compiled wares (AV industry and microFlaccid, anyone?) that make one’s systems the more susceptible to failure and theft.
Also also, the monetary shackling akin to a Leach, benefiting only the ware purveyor, whom realizing the evil that they inflict, allows the additional corruption of said wares to precipitate even more failures, thus scaring more into their electrified gilded cage.

alas, tis but the tip of the iceberg,… those whom read TechDirt regularly ought see these aspects most clearly,…

Anon says:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Yes, you might be able to download any cracked software you want from a Russian source soon… But would you? Do you trust it to be nothing but a cracked version of a popular software, or does it carry extra baggage? How would the average user know?

Best discription of this dilemma that I heard was – “If you were wlaking down the street and a stranger comes up to you with his hands behind his back, says ‘Close your eyes and open your mouth’ .. would you?”

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