President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has enacted a law allowing people in the country to utilise media and intellectual property from “unfriendly” foreign entities without the rights-holders’ permission. The law, sanctioned on 3rd January, makes it lawful in Belarus to access pirated audiovisual material and computer software created by foreign sources that have taken “unfriendly actions” against Belarusian individuals or legal entities.
According to the bill, “audiovisual material” is defined as films, songs, and television programs, as well as any material produced by a state organisation, film distributor, or entertainment company. If the pirated material is designated as “critical for the domestic market”, it is lawful to import it into the country.
But how does it work?
Those who access unlicensed or pirated content must pay remuneration to an account managed by the National Patent Authority, a government-owned organisation. The Authority keeps the funds for three years in case any international rights-holders come forward. If no party makes a claim, then the payment is retained by the state of Belarus.
The authorities in Belarus insist that the new legislation will help to increase the “intellectual, spiritual, and moral capabilities of the population” and tackle the “acute lack of food and other goods on the domestic market”.
Since 2020, when Alexander Lukashenko’s government reacted harshly to internal protests regarding their national elections, which were widely viewed as illegitimate, Belarus has been the object of financial sanctions from the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The new piracy legislation of the nation will remain in effect until the end of December 2024.