Russian firms say not responsible for web piracy

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Five of Russia's Internet giants have said they cannot be held responsible for copyright violations on their sites and urged rapid changes to outdated laws, in an unprecedented joint statement on Friday.

The search engines and mail providers, including the Russian unit of Google, said that the legal framework had not kept up with the rapid expansion of the Internet in Russia over the last year.

Everything possible was done by the companies to prevent copyright infringements on their sites, said the firms which also included mail service Mail.Ru, networking site VKontakte and search engines Yandex and Rambler.

"We believe that when the procedures are being observed (to prevent copyright violations) Internet services cannot be held responsible for content uploaded by users," they said in the statement published on their websites.

They said that modern Russian law did not explain clearly who must take responsibility when the rights of the copyright holder are infringed.

"In Europe, the United States and other countries the legal question about restricting the responsibility of the Internet media in these situations was decided more than 10 years ago."

Alexander Akopov the head of Amedia, one of the main Russian television production firms, however responded by telling the Vedomosti newspaper that it was up to the Internet providers to control the content.

But the firms' statement said the companies had neither the legal obligation nor the technical capacity "to control the actions of each user and evaluate their legality or illegality".

The statement warned that rightsholders in Russia have been placing the responsibility for illegal content on the Internet firms rather than those who upload the materials.

The Internet has expanded at huge speed in Russia over the last years, with Russian-language blogging and social networking sites attracting millions of users.

Russian Internet firms have also become more active on the international market.

Russian firm Digital Sky Technologies (DST) has built up a stake in Facebook, started in 2009 with a 1.96 percent holding. It is believed to have built that level up further since.

© 2010 AFP

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