By Gail Crawford and Ksenia Koroleva
The Federal Law No. 87-FZ of May 1, 2017, on Amendments to the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection (the Law) came into force on July 1, 2017. The Law introduces the definition of an audiovisual service owner and regulates their activities, including imposing ownership restrictions.
The Notion of Audiovisual Service Owners
According to the Law, an audiovisual service owner is an owner of a website, a page of a website, an information system, and/or software (an Audiovisual Service):
- Used for collating and providing access to audiovisual content
- By paid subscription and/or funded by advertising
- To users located in the territory of Russia
- With more than 100,000 users a day (on average)
The following are not regarded an Audiovisual Service:
- Information resources registered as online media in accordance with the Federal Law No. 2124-1 of December 27, 1991, on Mass Media (e.g., online media, TV-channels, TV/radio/video programs, etc.)
- Search engines
- Information resources which focus on hosting user-generated content under the criteria to be set by the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies, and Mass Communications (Roscomnadzor) (e.g., YouTube, RuTube, Vimeo).
Inclusion on the Register of Audiovisual Service Owners
Responsible for maintaining the register of Audiovisual Services, Roscomnadzor has the power to include a service on the register and notify the hosting provider of the necessity to provide certain information to determine the identity of the Audiovisual Service Owner.
Within three business days following the receipt of notice, the hosting provider shall provide the information enabling Roscomnadzor to identify the Audiovisual Service Owner. Within two months after the receipt of the notice, the Audiovisual Service Owner shall provide documents confirming compliance with the ownership restrictions set out below.
According to the Law and subject to the below exception only, the following persons only can be Audiovisual Service Owners:
- Russian entities with no more than 20 percent of their shares owned or controlled by foreign persons
- Russian citizens without foreign citizenship (e.g., dual citizenship)
The following persons and entities can only own or control more than 20 percent of shares of an Audiovisual Service Owner, if they get prior approval of a special committee (which is yet to be established by the Russian government):
- Foreign persons (foreign states, international organizations, foreign entities, foreign citizens, stateless persons)
- Russian citizens with dual nationality
- Russian entities with more than 20 percent of shares owned or controlled by foreign persons
- Affiliates of any the above persons, citizens or entities
The Law obliges Audiovisual Service Owners (among other things) to:
- Install one of the web counter programs proposed by Roscomnadzor. Such programs consist of software that enables owners to determine the number of visitors to, and users of, their service.
- Prevent the use of their Audiovisual Services for illegitimate purposes (including, but not limited to, dissemination of information inciting to or advocating violence, terrorism or other illegal activities).
- Carry out classification of audiovisual content according to the Federal Law No. 436-FZ of December 29, 2010, on Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development, etc.
Liability for Violation of the Law
Failure to comply with the requirements of the Law, as well as with demands of Roscomnadzor, may lead to an administrative fine of up to RUB1 million for legal entities (circa US$16,000 as of today) and, in some cases, may lead to blocking of the Audiovisual Service in Russia.
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