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Russia May Legalize Software Piracy As Tech And Game Companies Continue To Pull Out

The move comes after the invasion of Ukraine led to numerous sanctions against Russia

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A photo of Moscow and its various buildings, with a black pirate flag waving in front of the city.
Photo: Kotaku / Sergey Alimov / Matthew Horwood (Getty Images)

The Russian government is looking to legalize at least some software piracy to help its citizens get around the growing list of tech, gaming, and software bans that the country faces due to its ongoing and destructive invasion of Ukraine. It seems Russian leaders and lawmakers are preparing to live under sanctions, a bad sign for those hoping the war will end anytime soon.

Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development has introduced a potential new law called the “Priority Action Plan for Ensuring the Development of the Russian Economy in the Conditions of External Sanctions Pressure.” As reported by TorrentFreak, a passage found in point 6.7.3 seems to have big implications for software piracy. Translated, it reads:

Cancellation of liability for the use of software (SW) unlicensed in the Russian Federation, owned by a copyright holder from countries that have supported the sanctions.

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In other words, the idea is that once this law is passed, anyone could download and use pirated software for which there is no Russian-made alternative as long as the software originates from a country that currently supports the sanctions against Russia. TorrentFreak notes that the proposed law covers both civil and federal liability, and that these new changes to Russia’s law would remain in place for as long as the sanctions persist.

Russia currently faces a long list of sanctions after Russian military forces began attacking and invading Ukraine late last month.

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Read More: Nintendo Delays War Game Over Invasion Of Ukraine

The ongoing, illegal conflict has led to thousands of deaths, with many fleeing the country as their homes and towns are bombed by missiles. As a result, multiple countries, including the United States, have placed pressure on Russia and Putin via economic sanctions. And as the invasion continues, many private companies are also pulling their business from Russia. Last weekend, Activision Blizzard, Microsoft, and Epic Games announced that they were suspending their services in the country. They join other major tech and software companies, like Sony / PlayStation, Twitch, Netflix, EA Games, and Witcher devs CDPR in effectively boycotting the country over the war.

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While the proposed law would theoretically allow Russians to pirate games published by U.S. companies such as EA without facing legal punishment, that isn’t the main reason for the law. Instead, it’s apparently aimed at helping Russian businesses who rely on software from Microsoft or Apple to run their operations. However, as much of that kind of software has moved to subscription models that rely on the cloud, it’s unclear just how helpful these changes to Russia’s software piracy regulations will be.