The executive director of Wikimedia has voiced concerns that Wikipedia in Russia could be taken offline thanks to the country’s new anti-piracy law. The new legislation, which comes into force on August 1, allows copyright holders to have websites blocked if they link to infringing material. Since Wikipedia has millions of hyperlinks to content that may or may not be authorized, the famous online encyclopedia is in an extremely vulnerable position.
Dubbed ‘Russia’s SOPA‘, the law will see copyright holders filing lawsuits against sites carrying or linking to infringing content. Site owners will then be given 72 hours to remove the suspect material. Failure to do so will result in their entire site being blocked by Internet service providers pending the outcome of a court hearing.
For very large indexes such as Google and Yandex, who have complained heavily about the law, the legislation could prove a nightmare. These sites carry millions of links, any of which could connect to infringing content. Monitoring them all will prove impossible but responding to complaints quickly will be an absolutely necessity.
In addition to search engines, concerns over the new regime are now being voiced by the organization behind Wikipedia.
Speaking with Russian publication Digit.ru, Stanislav Kozlovsky, executive director of Wikimedia Russia, says that due to its nature, Wikipedia is in a very vulnerable position.
Millions of pages on the site carry several links to external sources and Kozlovsky says that it’s impossible to check whether all of those sites are officially licensed. As a result, Wikipedia is probably linking to unauthorized content and could in theory be blocked by the country’s ISPs if things get out of hand.
Ideally, rightsholders will show some common sense and direct their complaints directly to Wikipedia instead of to the authorities, but that’s far from guaranteed. One only has to check out Google’s Transparency Report to see that rightsholders and anti-piracy outfits have no problem trying to have Wikipedia pages de-indexed.
Over the past two years dozens of rightsholders including Sony Music, Microsoft, The Publishers Association, Home Box Office and Warner have sent complaints about Wikipedia.org directly to Google.
In many (but not all) instances, Google refused to remove the pages. For the Internet’s sake, let’s hope Russian authorities are as diligent.