Belarus legalizes the piracy of intellectual property from ‘unfriendly nations’ after international sanctions limit the media, software, and technology allowed within the country.
The government of Belarus, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, has passed a law permitting the use of media and intellectual property, such as computer software, without the consent of rightsholders from “unfriendly” foreign nations. Lukashenko signed the proposal into law on January 3, meaning it is now legal in Belarus to access pirated audiovisual material and computer software if the rightsholders are from foreign bodies that “commit unfriendly actions against Belarusian legal entities” or individuals.
The bill defines “audiovisual material” as movies, music, and TV shows and also covers programs edited by a state organization, film distribution, or entertainment organization. Any pirated content imported into the country need only be labeled “essential for the domestic market” to be considered legal.
However, when an individual or entity accesses unlicensed or pirated content, they must pay a remuneration fee to bank accounts operated by the government-owned National Patent Authority. Money sent to the National Patent Authority is to be held for three years to allow any international rightsholders to make a claim. If no claim is made, Belarus’ government keeps the fee.
But the Belarusian government states that the new law will assist the development of the “intellectual, spiritual, and moral potential of society” and reduce the “critical shortage in the domestic market of food and other goods.”
Belarus is a critical ally of Putin’s Russia and has faced various financial sanctions from the European Union, Canada, the UK, and the US since 2020 when Lukashenko’s regime took action against internal protests following the country’s national elections widely recognized as fraudulent. Additional international sanctions introduced last year have prevented items like software and technology from entering Belarus over the country’s support of Russia’s invasion of and war against Ukraine.
The country’s piracy law will be in effect now until December 2024.