Attack on Russian opposition media claiming copyright infringement
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The local edition of Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta from
Samara was closed down on 8 November 2007 by the Russian authorities and its
editor Sergei Kurt-Adzhiyev was criminally indicted under the accusation of
having violated copyright provisions of the Russian Penal Code, by using
counterfeit software. Violations carry up to six years in prison.
The problems started on 11 May 2007 right before the so called March of
Dissent, led by Kasparov’s Other Russia opposition coalition, as the paper
was one of the few media company having planned to cover the march. Several
officers from the Samara Main Internal Affairs Directorate came to the
newspaper offices and seized all of its computers under the accusation of
using counterfeit software. Later the same day, all the office papers,
including financial ones, were confiscated as well.
The case is part of a larger action of the Russian government against
independent news media, advocacy organisations and opposition political
activists, all police raids having the same pretext of investigating an
alleged use of counterfeit software. The actions are taking under the
coverage of the repeated concerns expressed by the Western world in relation
to the high level of piracy in Russia.
“Our law enforcement finally realized that computers are very important
tools for their opponents, and they have decided to take away these tools by
doing something close to the West’s agenda,” said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head
of the Panorama research institute in Moscow.
Novaya Gazeta says it believes its software is legal. According to Vitaly
Yaroshevsky, a deputy editor of the newspaper: “This is not a campaign
against piracy, it’s a campaign against dissent. (…) The authorities want
to destroy an opposition newspaper. It doesn’t matter if we send more
computers to Samara. It doesn’t matter if we show we bought computers
legally. It will change nothing.”
The shutting down of the newspaper is also criticised by the Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ). “The authorities in Samara have effectively
silenced an independent newspaper that dared to cover an opposition party
campaign in an election year. (…) We call on local prosecutors to drop all
charges against Sergei Kurt-Adzhiyev, return all seized equipment and
financial documents, and allow the paper to print without fear of
harassment.” stated Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director.
Samara’s police made no comment on the issue stating they would make an
official statement at the completion of the investigation. In the mean time,
the activist groups in Russia are checking the legality of their software.
“Most people are trying to put things in order” said Tatyana Lokshina, head
of Demos, a human rights group.
Russia Casts A Selective Net in Piracy Crackdown (14.11.2007)
Novaya Gazeta’s work paralyzed due to counterfeit Windows (11.06.2007)
Russia: Authorities shutter Novaya Gazeta’s Samara edition (13.11.2007)
EDRI-gram: Putin wants control of Russian Internet (7.11.2007)