The government of Belarus has passed a law that permits the use of media and intellectual property, such as computer software, in the country without the consent of copyright holders from “unfriendly” foreign nations.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, signed the proposal into law on January 3, which means it is now legal in Belarus to access pirated audiovisual material and computer software if the rights holders to the artifact are from “foreign states that commit unfriendly actions against Belarusian legal entities and (or) individuals.” In addition, the law also covers international companies from “unfriendly” nations who hold rights.
The bill describes audiovisual material as movies, music, and TV shows. The law also covers television programs edited by a state organization as well as film distribution and entertainment organizations. Any individual or company that imports pirated content or media into the country can simply label the item “essential for the domestic market” for it to be considered legal.
However, there is one caveat: When people or entities access unlicensed or pirated content, they must pay a remuneration fee to bank accounts operated by the state-owned National Patent Authority. Any money sent to the patent authority will be held for three years, allowing any international rights holders to make a claim. If no claims are made, the Belarus government will keep the fee.
In the accompanying bill, the Belarusian government states that the new law will aid 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, a key ally of Putin’s Russia, has faced varying levels of financial sanctions from the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States since 2020 after Lukashenko’s regime cracked down on internal protests following national elections that have been widely recognized as fraudulent.
Further international sanctions preventing items like technology and software from being routed through Belarus were introduced last year over the country’s support of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The country’s new piracy law will be in effect until December 2024.