The Russian Files I

During a recent visit in Moscow with the International Trades Committee of the European Parliament to investigate the views of various Russian stakeholders on the Russian WTO accession, I took the liberty of meeting up with other people who are not normally so affiliated with the parliament activities neither in Europe nor in Russia.

And so I came to find out about promodj.ru (for artists, listeners, agents), InstAgent (to put agents and artists in touch), ivi.ru (film distribution) and dreamindustries.ru (content distribution for users, readers, educators and listeners). Less obvious in terms of end-users is mobile phone company IMMO which makes integrated services for operators to provide to their end-consumers (B2B or business-to-business sales), but which also facilitates new distribution models for particularly music.

Dreamindustries do educational services, music distribution and book distribution. They have contracts with all mayor book publishers in Russia, and they are in contact with music distributors.

The reasons they have successfully obtained contracts with distributors, they say, is that in Russia, because of the distances, physical distribution is simply too difficult (relating to books) and the incomes have been dropping so fast that the industry is in a position where they have to compromise. Also, the domestic industry (that is, non-foreign owned enterprises) is not in a good position always to get help from the government, which means that there is no one aggressively defending them when they don't try new distribution models as has been the case in Europe and the US.

This contrasts of course with the AllofMP3 case, where the US government directly intervened on behalf of its rights-holders in the abroad. In terms of the WTO accesssion one could also ask what the impact is of Russia not so far having been subject to the WTO dispute settlement panel IMRO-case, covered by Ruth Okediji and P.B. Hugenholtz here and which provides an almost infinite power to copyright holders to block any advancements in music distribution.

Intermediary liability is however seemingly very strict in Russia. This means most of their services, even while being able to legally distribute their content in Russia, always run a risk of getting caught distributing content illegaly. Reporting does not have to be done by the rightsholders themselves, and therefore anyone looking to obstruct a particular service could frame it on an infringement charge. Most of the above services therefore have servers outside of Russian territory, if I understand things correctly.


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