Russia's Favourite Illicit Movie Websites Face Block as Netflix Looms

  • RuTracker was labeled 'notorious' by U.S. Trade Department
  • Blocking torrents should give a boost to legal streaming sites

Russia is to block its largest movie-sharing websites -- including, with 13 million users -- smoothing the path for legal alternatives such as Netflix Inc.

Moscow City Court’s ruling on the blocking of RuTracker has taken force, a spokesman for the court said by phone Friday. Communications regulator Roskomnadzor will add RuTracker to the list of banned websites once it receives court documents, spokesman Vadim Ampelonskiy said by phone.

"Shutting access to pirate websites should give a further boost to legal online video market in Russia," said Oleg Tumanov, founder and CEO of Russia’s largest online streaming cinema service, which uses both ad-supported and subscription-based business models.

RuTracker, similar to The Pirate Bay, has been the largest among Russian "torrent trackers" - peer-to-peer sharing websites that use a special protocol to download portions of the needed file from different computers. Russia banned another 13 torrent trackers with a combined total of about 6 million users earlier last week, Ampelonskiy also said. The U.S. Trade Department listed the Russian site on its Notorious Markets List last month.

Russia started fighting copyright piracy after joining the World Trade Organization four years ago. President Vladimir Putin signed an anti-piracy law in 2013, expanding it later on to introduce "eternal blocking" of sites over repeated violations of copyright for movies, music, books and software.

The wide-spread piracy and consumer unwillingness to pay for movies on the Internet has been curbing development of the video-on-demand market in Russia where the largest player had revenue of 728 million rubles ($9.2 million) in 2014. Netflix entered Russia earlier this month, without yet localizing its content.

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