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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Cracks Down on Film Piracy

Russia took a small step toward reining in its vast film piracy network by revoking the broadcast license of a television station accused of showing bootlegged movies.

The Russian Federal Television and Radio Service (FSTR) has withdrawn the license of a local station in the city of Nizhevsk after another organization documented cases in which the station illegally broadcast copyrighted Hollywood films, FSTR director Mikhail Seslavinsky said at a news conference Tuesday.

In a statement, the FSTR accused Alva of cheating the U.S. film studio Paramount out of 300,000 rubles ($50,000) worth of royalties for "The Godfather."

Alva's case was the first in which a license was revoked for violations of Russia's copyright law, and it marks the start of a new campaign against broadcast piracy, the statement said.

Since the fall of Soviet communism, Russia has become a notorious market for stolen intellectual property.

Bootlegged videos of Hollywood films have appeared on Moscow streets before they open in U.S. theaters, often dubbed by a single male voice mumbling all the parts.

Bogus CD-ROMs of the latest computer software are sold openly at metro stations. A disc labeled with Microsoft's Windows-98 operating system was available weeks before the program's official launch, and sold for only a few dollars.

For years, major Hollywood studios refused to show their top films in Russia for fear of theft.

Russia's own once-thriving film industry has been all but wiped out since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Films by the few commercially successful directors such as Nikita Mikhalkov, whose "Burnt by the Sun" won the 1994 academy award for best foreign-language film, earn most of their money abroad.

Over the past three or four years Hollywood studios have come back to Russia, if tentatively, and are now even licensing video distributors to sell legal tapes with proper dubbing.

But those tapes themselves have been counterfeited, complete with their fancy boxes and factory seals.

Lev Vildavsky, head of the Inter-regional Agency of Authors' Rights, said legal videos now make up only about 35 percent of the market in Moscow, and far less outside the capital.

Meanwhile, although all of Russia's national television networks purchase broadcast rights before showing films, some local broadcast and cable stations often show movies illegally.

Some films appear complete with flashing warnings that the tapes being played are not licensed for public viewing, offering a phone number to contact the studio or the FBI.

Vildavsky's agency, which was set up by the FSTR to monitor such broadcasts, has already used a mixture of warnings and persuasion to try to convince some stations to halt unlicensed broadcasts, he said.

But in the case of Alva, the station was too large and the violations too flagrant to allow for compromise, he said. Seslavinsky said the station had been warned twice.

Much more remains to be done, they said.