Roskomnadzor has permanently blocked rutracker.org
On 25 January Rutracker.org, the biggest torrent tracker in Russia and CIS countries, was permanently blocked by Roskomnadzor (Russian federal executive body responsible for overseeing the media and Internet subordinated to the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications) as a result of a decision of the Moscow City Court.
Under a provision of the Anti-Piracy Law which came into effect in May 2015, the Moscow City Court has the power to impose such a permanent blocking order where the claimant has previously been successful against the same defendant.
The claim against Rutracker.org was filed by Eksmo (one of the largest publishing houses in Russia) and SBA Production (a subsidiary of Warner Music Russia).
Rutracker.org, which was listed in the USTR’s 2014 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, insists that it cooperates with right holders. It has even created a special account for copyright owners, which enables them to remove infringing content without prior notifications to Rutracker.org.
However, as explained by Aleksandr Zharov, the Chief Officer of Roskomnadzor, a distinction needs to be drawn between websites which share legitimate content, cooperate with copyright holders, and divide profits with them, and other platforms which merely follow rules reactively - removing illegal content only upon receipt of notifications from copyright owners, and doing nothing to seek to identify and remove such content without such complaints.
On 4 December 2015 the Moscow City Court decided to permanently block the torrent tracker. Appeals filed by Rutracker.org were unsuccessful, and the decision came into effect on 25 January. Roskomnadzor put the web site on a black list and since that moment all Russian Internet service providers are obliged to block access to the pirate platform.
During December and January Rutracker.org organized a number of what they called "civil defence drills" for its users, in order to educate them how to use VPNs, proxy servers and other tools, which enable them to bypass the block. When the court decision was enforced, the users were already prepared to work around it. Between 18 to 24 January, Rutracker.org had appx. 10,7M VPD (views per day). On 27 January, after two days of blockage, the number decreased……..but was still 7,4M VPD.
As of mid-February Rutracker.org was blocked by 97% of ISPs, meaning 3% still were providing access to the pirate platform. 3% seems to be a small number, but nevertheless it puts the effectiveness of the permanent block into question. On February 17th the Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, during an official meeting held in The Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography accessed Rutracker.org from his tablet. The minister of Telecom and Mass Communications was unable to clarify anything to the PM, who ironically asked him about Roskomnadzor's work.
One of Rutracker's administrators confirmed in an unaccredited/off-the-record interview that they lost about 20-25% of VPDs in February. The decrease might be even bigger, but the “Streisand effect” attracted additional users who learn to use different tools to bypass the block. The administrator expects to receive objective data on their losses in a couple months.
Right holders are concerned about gaps in the permanent block and are considering the possibility to claim for "undelegating the domain name". Even if they succeed with a new claim, it could not solve the problem itself, because Rutracker could easily migrate to any other domain. In 2011 Rutracker's ascendant torrents.ru was blocked upon a request of the Chertanovo district Prosecutor's office, Moscow, but it didn't affect the pirate at all. Rutracker seems to be prepared for another migration, since over 100 domains were purchased by its administration in February.
It looks like the Russian Authorities are serious about tackling those who facilitate piracy, whether the right holders involved are Russian or foreigners. And whilst this blocking is certainly a big step in the right direction, the apparent ease with which Rutracker.org has been able to navigate its way around it is a cause for concern for all rights holders.
97% of Internet service providers have blocked the infringer
3% of them still haven't complied with the decree from Roskomnadzor