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Russian Ministry of Culture has shaken film distribution industry

Last year Russian government adopted new amendments to rules for demonstration of movies in cinemas. Under these amendments the permission for demonstration of movies is also necessary for “showing of film by other technical means”. The making available of a film is also included to public performance. Russian MinCult decided to clarify these amendments and published its explanation.

First of all, the company, intending to distribute a film in Russia, must receive permission for one or all of following types of distribution: demonstration of film in cinema, distribution of film on material medium and demonstration of film by other technical means. Applicant for permission has the right to mention one or more types of demonstration. Under current Russian law the film is an audio-visual work.

In order to protect the right holders, rules provide closed list of persons who has the right to apply for permission to demonstrate a film. Applicant must also provide the relevant authority with copies of documents confirming applicant’s rights to exploit a film in question by means stated in application. Assignment contract or licence agreement can serve to these purposes.

So, what is the “punch-line” in this explanation? What means “showing by other technical means”? Such means are any technical means, including internet but except showing a film in cinema or online versions of television channels. But online version also means showing film through the internet. But “explanation” also underlined that online stores where you can buy and download films are out of regulation.

Video-on-demand services also fall under the amended regulation because they make audio-visual work available to the public. Therefore they also must receive permission for demonstration of films in internet to their users, regardless of whether it is subscription services or available for anyone. Neither law nor explanations make this moment clear.

MinCult also underlined that in most cases separate permission to show movie in internet is not necessary. “Legal online services work with legal content. For these movies the relevant permissions for all types of distributions (including for internet) have been already received. If right holder does not have permission for distribution in internet, he can receive in accordance with relevant procedure,” – stated press-service of MinCult. MinCult believes such measure will help to fight piracy.

But what the industry thinks about? CEO of one VOD service stated that it is another ridiculous bureaucratic initiative, damaging the industry. It can eliminate “catch up” and online broadcasting of gaming and festival events. This rule ties up “hands” of VOD industry in Russia and simplifies the life of pirates and pirated services. Experts also believe the explanation as well as the governmental decree is legally incorrect.

Under article 3 of federal law the demonstration of film is “public demonstration of film, undertaken in cinema hall, by broadcasting, cablecasting, satellite and other technical means.” Under item 2 article 1270 of Russian civil code public demonstration of work means a demonstration of work by means of technical tools at the place available for attendance or at the place, where is only minor number of people, who don’t belong to usual family circle.

Therefore making a film available in internet does not fall under definition “demonstration of film”, because in this case the film is demonstrated to private person or in family circle, but it is not demonstrated publicly – believes the lawyer of one VOD service.