Belarus legalizes media piracy, following Russian footsteps

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On January 3, the Republic of Belarus, a Russian ally, declared that “it is allowed to use the following objects of intellectual property without the consent (permission) of the right holder or organization on the collective management of property rights from foreign states committing unfriendly actions.”

This is not to say that the rights holder would never be paid but conditions are tricky.  For one, remuneration is “credited to the current (checking) bank account of the (Belarus) patent authority,” and held there.  If the rights holder doesn’t claim it within three years, the right holder or the organization for collective management of property rights for three months, it is transferred to the budget of the Republic.

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Further, the amount of remuneration and the method of monetary transfer are determined by Belarus government agencies.  In other words, the state determines market value and the means of possession.  In any case, the patent authority can keep up to 20% of the proceeds to spend in any way the government specifies.

“At the same time, the use of intellectual property objects used … without the consent (permission) of the right holders, is not recognized as a violation of the exclusive rights to these objects,” the law says.

What qualifies?

Items that Belarus declares that it can use without permission include: “(L)egally published objects: a computer program, the copyright holder of which is a person included in the list of copyright holders of computer programs; an audiovisual work, the copyright owner of which is a person or the property rights to which are managed by an organization for the collective management of property rights, included in the list of copyright owners of audiovisual works and organizations for the collective management of property rights, which is part of a television program edited by a state organization … and (or) used by film distribution and (or) film entertainment organizations…”

The law was adopted by Belarus’ Chamber of Deputies on December 20, 2022 and approved by the Council of the Republic on December 21, 2022, and posted to the national law Web site on January 3 2023.

Access the Law of the Republic of Belarus No. 241-Z “On the limitation of exclusive rights to objects of intellectual property,” via the Belarus national legal Web site.  In Belorussian.

Why it matters

Belarus essentially declared that it could use media properties without license, if it is from countries with which it doesn’t have friendly relations.  In other words, countries with rights-holders that no longer do business there.

Russia declared piracy to be legal against ‘unfriendly’ states in 2022, although Russia’s methodology is different from that of Belarus.

In a way, Belarus wants to be seen as saying “We’re really only borrowing your content until conditions improve.”  But the likelihood that rights holders would ever receive full and timely compensation for use of their assets is likely to be low or nil.

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