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Kazakhstan: Fighting Internet Piracy

Kazakhstan is undergoing a new scandalous development with regards the Internet – this time it is about regulation of copyright online. There are two antagonists in the field – the Internet Association of Kazakhstan, backed by the government, and a group of the top ten most popular Kazakhstani websites.

On 29 April, 2011, a special roundtable that brought together lawyers, industry representatives and state bodies took place [ru], where the “three strikes method” of fighting piracy was presented:

Sholpan Abdreeva, deputy chair of the Intellectual Property Committee under the Justice Ministry:

Kazakhstan is one of the fastest developing countries from the ex-Soviet republics. Image by Vlad Sokhin, copyright Demotix (11/09/08).

Kazakhstan is one of the fastest developing countries from the ex-Soviet republics. Image by Vlad Sokhin, copyright Demotix (11/09/08).

Recently, websites that provide a tool for downloads and exchange of pirated movies, games, music and software have been created in the Kazakhstani segment of the internet.

Shavqat Sabirov, president of the Internet Association of Kazahstan:

“Kaznet” (Kazakhstani sector of the internet) is stuffed with plagiarism, pirated texts, music, photo and video, with ubiquitous violations of copyrights. We shall punish the violators with a “three strikes method”, where strike 1 is a notification, strike 2 is a warning and strike 3 is subject to a criminal case. We believe this is the most acceptable method for our market.

The news stirred a great resonance among bloggers and internet users, provoking opposite opinions in support and against the novelty. The latter prevailed.

Prominent blogger Ashina upholds [ru] the government's stand:

The law would allow for upgrade to a legalized and regulated market, which would potentially bring more money to everyone – including websites, content providers and developers.

Blogger mozg categorically disagrees [ru]:

This is a crucial problem and, unfortunately, no country in the world has a clear decision for it. No country is the world is able to hold back the rapid digitization of pretty much everything that is not utterly material. You cannot make old laws work in the cyberspace, where material values easily transform into immaterial, where borders get erased and legal jurisdictions of real life just don't work.

Zevaka Nurov points out [ru] that the struggle against piracy – particularly against torrent-trackers – is very hard:

You will shut them down in the “.kz” zone, but they will simply migrate to “.org“, “.net“ etc. This problem is global, and nobody has been able to solve it.

Khayman agrees [ru]:

“Kaznet” survives at the expense of pirated content. This is ain't good or bad – this is fact. It's a deadlock if you want to suppress it without giving an alternative.

Many bloggers pointed out that no owners of the large internet projects were present at the roundtable, which had been a closed one. Marat Mulku says [ru]:

I had registered for it, but at around 8 o'clock in the evening the Intellectual Property Committee called me on the phone and told that my participation is not welcomed and even prohibited by the meeting's organizers.

On 30 May, the top popular Kazakhstani websites made their move [ru] by uniting in an association and writing an open letter to the prime-minister, government and parliament of Kazakhstan:

The approaches developed at the roundtable, including the so-called “three-strike” fight against piracy, do not take into account the level of globalization, the current level of technologies and, therefore, they don't have anything in common with efficacy.

The signatories asked to hold back hasty actions and introduce a two-year moratorium on changes of the copyright-related legislation. They explained that users may stop visiting domestic websites and migrate to popular foreign resources.

Bloggers’ reaction to the letter varied. ArkHard thinks [ru] that fighting piracy is useless:

This fight will hardly be won even in the far future, because nobody will be dealing with checking millions of pages for legality of content usage.

Denis Strokov wonders [ru] why:

websites, torrent-trackers and content sharing resources are pressurized so heavily, whilst offline sellers of pirated DVDs feel fine on the streets.

.

RrinatT has [ru] an objection:

The law in on the side of copyright owners. […] The prime-minister cannot stop it, because he cannot go against the law. [Thus] if authors of the letter want to change something, they should advocate for change of the legislation or prove their rightfulness in courts. A request like “let us violate the law and steal for a couple of years in the name of “Kaznet” sounds strange.

On 6 June, well-known blogger laralarkin made [ru] a review of the situation and also vowed for the moratorium:

The main consequence would be that the Kazakhstani users seeking illegal content would exit “.kz“ zone to the foreign websites. Russian websites would receive a key advantage over the Kazakhstani websites. Such clean-up of “Kaznet” would decrease its competitiveness. Kazakhstani torrent-trackers and online-cinemas would easily change their country domain and hosting to Russian ones, thus exiting the legal field of Kazakhstan. Users would keep on using pirated content, but it would be much more difficult to monitor such websites.

Kasik supports [ru] this opinion:

We should just tell the government that if they close all torrent-trackers, the people would just leave “Kaznet”.

PaWeLLeR agrees [ru]:

Kaznet is a fully artificial notion. In essence, it is a local network of one […] monopolistic ISP. These statements about two-year moratorium are ridiculous. You just want to get two more years to make money on somebody else's labor and content, and cover it up with nice words about development of “Kaznet” and enthusiasm

Kubekovkz suggests [ru]:

You should know that this problem is still not resolved in Russia. My personal opinion is that it is too early to make the law harsher. It is necessary to conduct educational work among the population and among the website owners.

The issue is still open.

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