(Photo: Towfiqu Barbhuiya/Unsplash)In response to sanctions restricting software such as Microsoft 365 and Oracle business tools, Russia has devised a new plan for allowing its citizens to operate as normally as possible. The plan? To legalize piracy.
A new document by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia details an attempt to circumvent other countries’ sanctions by making the crime of software piracy non-punishable. If the measures outlined in the document are passed, a new federal law will allow citizens to download and use software published by copyright holders in sanction-supporting countries. Citizens will be released of legal liability for such actions as the government supplements its criminal code with “the possibility of compulsory use of unlicensed software under sanctions restrictions [sic].” Only those who pirate software without Russian alternatives will be considered excusable under the new law.
Countless tech companies have announced suspensions on the sale and distribution of their products to Russia, from Apple, Nvidia, and Samsung to EA, Microsoft, and Oracle. These privately-headed sanctions are intended to put pressure on the Kremlin to rethink its military takeover (or attempt thereof) in Ukraine. While Vladimir Putin will have a tough time forcing imports into Russia, he and his network have clearly found a potential workaround that will allow individuals, businesses, and government bodies to continue accessing the software they’d otherwise be forced to go without.
The Russian government also appears to be looking at dismissing liability for intellectual property offenses. Item 6.7.1 in the document outlines a proposed law that would extend “permission to use the rights to an invention, utility model, industrial design in relation to computer programs, databases, [and] topologies of integrated circuits.” Overall, Russia’s forthcoming federal policy seems to be that if the people can’t import it, they’re free to steal or copy it.
The document’s lengthy title, “Priority Action Plan for Ensuring the Development of the Russian Economy in the Conditions of External Sanctions Pressure,” is uncomfortably telling of the Russian government’s long-haul mindset. If Putin’s strategy is to dig his heels in and find a way to dodge the world’s attempts at getting him to back out of Ukraine, it wouldn’t be absurd to guess that he has no plan to leave anytime soon.