Belarus legalizes piracy of digital media from 'unfriendly' countries

Belarus has passed a law permitting the digital piracy of certain materials whose rights are held in "unfriendly" countries. — Photography NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP

Belarus has a very particular vision of illegal downloads. While digital piracy is on the wane around the world, Alexander Lukashenko's government has just enacted a law allowing the unauthorized use of certain forms of digital media.

This new legislation, signed into law on January 3 by President Alexander Lukashenko, stipulates that it is now legal to consume pirated movies, TV series, music and computer software, if the rights holders are from foreign countries on bad terms with Belarus. The states in question are those "that commit unfriendly actions against Belarusian legal entities and (or) individuals," reports Deadline. This law also applies to digital media for which the rights are held by international companies based in these "unfriendly" nations.

While the bill does not mention any particular country, it is likely to include the United States. Indeed, the US State Department announced in February its intention to impose visa restrictions on Belarusian nationals for "their involvement in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activity." In addition, several European Union countries have imposed sanctions on Belarus in response to the wave of repression that has occurred in the country since the fraudulent re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020. Moreover, restrictive measures have recently been tightened in response to Minsk's involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Alexander Lukashenko's government claims that the controversial law will contribute to the development of the "intellectual, spiritual and moral potential of society," according to Deadline. However, it stipulates that Belarusian citizens or businesses wishing to consume pirated media from "unfriendly" countries will have to pay a fee. This fee will be collected by the state and kept in the accounts of the national patent authority for three years, in case some international rights holders decide to make claims. After this period, the funds will be absorbed into the Belarusian budget. Currently, this legislation on piracy is scheduled to be in effect until December 2024. – AFP Relaxnews

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