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The paradox of Russian law system – the law is in force but impossible to be implemented

One famous Russian writer once has said: the rigor of the Russian law is diminished by their disregard. It should be added at the end “at all levels”. In 2017 in Russia it has been adopted a law on online video services. It is very rigorous. For example, if Netflix would like to operate in Russia it has to receive governmental approval. But the situation is not simple for Russian legal system and very lucky for Netflix, YouTube and similar services.

The law on online audiovisual services provides has been adopted, it is in force, but it cannot be implemented, because there is no rules or procedures prescribing how to implement the law. First of all the law provides the registry of audiovisual services. Such service is to be included in the registry if its daily amount of visitors is more than 100 thousand people.

But there is no such registry in Russia. The Roskomnadzor, Russian internet watchdog, is responsible for this registry and has all facilities in order to operate it in full. But it is not so simple and in order to know why it should be taken into account another provision of law – about owners of audiovisual service.

Under the law “foreigners” do not have a right to own more than 20% share in audiovisual service operating in Russia. If totally owned foreign audiovisual service (i.e. without Russian share in capital or with more than 20% capital share) would like to operate in Russia it should receive permission from special governmental commission.

Governmental permission also necessary if the service’s audience from Russian is less than 50%. Roskomandzor should supervise compliance with these requirements. If the service does not comply with them, it is to be blocked in Russia by Roskomnadzor.

But Roskomandzor does not exercise its right to block like Netflix or other similar audiovisual services available in Russia. The law prescribes what and when to do, but it does not explain how to do. Procedures to form governmental commission are to be drafted by Russian ministry of communication.

Such procedures are still developing and not agreed by all involved governmental bodies. If Roskomandzor will operate registry of audiovisual services in Russia in mostly cases only Russian services would be included therein. It would not be good for them, economic and competition points of view. The law aims to bite foreign services in Russian market, but not Russian services.