The decision to block Yandex.Video is a precedent for the media industry in Russia

The search engine is ordered to block access to all search output of four TV series "Gazprom-Media".
Roskomnadzor officially warned Yandex that if the company does not remove links to illegal copies of serials in its section with video before August 31, the corresponding pages on will be blocked, Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of the agency, said. Since many providers in Russia still do not know how to correctly block individual pages, this means that by September many users of runet can remain without access to Yandex.Video. This is the first threat of such a massive blockage in the history of the largest RuNet company.

The representative of "Yandex" declined to comment.

Search Blocking

Yandex's problems arose because of the claims of Gazprom-Media: the holding found in the video section pirated copies of serials that were on the air of its entertainment channels. These are four series - "Home Arrest", "Outside the Game", "Mystical Stories" and "Watch Out, Earthlings". The channels appealed to the Moscow City Court, which took interim measures on all four lawsuits, namely, instructed Roskomnadzor to block the relevant pages on Yandex.Video before the substantive proceedings. "Yandex" will avoid blocking only if it removes contentious content.

This is the standard procedure for blocking access to pirated content, which has been in effect in Russia since 2015, and on it, access to tens of thousands of pages and websites is temporarily or permanently blocked.

But in the story with Yandex.Video, there is one cardinal difference from similar locks, Vedomosti found: according to this court decision, access is limited not to a page with a specific illegal copy of a particular series, but to all search results with the names of four serials. This follows from the addresses of "Yandex.Video", which the court handed over to Roskomnadzor for blocking and which Vedomosti got acquainted with.

This way of blocking is connected with how Yandex.Video itself is arranged, it is based on searching for the names of serials, films, shows or their subjects. And if the main search for "Yandex" gives only links to external pages and to watch the video you need to go from search to another site, then Yandex.Video users can watch the found series or transfer directly inside the service - via the built-in player.

Now in this section you can see a lot of illegal content - here quickly appear copies of Hollywood blockbusters, which only came out in theaters, and Russian TV series immediately after the air. Yandex itself stressed that it does not host video content on its website, but only provides access to it.

And when the user scores the name of a particular TV series in search, finds the right link, opens it right there in the player, then the new address of the page on "Yandex.Video" is not formed, Vedomosti was convinced: the viewing takes place at the search page of the section. In practice, this means that the copyright holder can not require a standard blocking of a specific illegal copy of its content on Yandex.Video, but only blocking the entire search distribution by the name of the series or film. This is exactly what happened with the claims of Gazprom-Media.

Two-faced "Yandex"

Pirate content inside Yandex.Video causes obvious irritation of Russian TV channels and film companies. With one hand, a search engine helps pirates and allows them to earn through their advertising network, the other - he himself is actively trying to manufacture and distribute content, Russian media companies complain. So, Yandex buys from Russian companies the rights to broadcast Internet sports, tries to produce along with them serials, and also participates in the production of motion pictures. This year Yandex launched its own online cinema.

The blocking of certain pirate resources is ineffective as long as users easily find illegal copies through the main search for Yandex or inside Yandex.Video, media companies insist. Moreover, inside this section you can watch videos on the pages, access to which is blocked in Russia, points out Subbotin, - the traffic from them goes through the servers of "Yandex". Specific examples with blocked content on "Yandex.Video" at the beginning of the year led the Republic. "Yandex" in response indicated that its search finds only what is available on the network, and if you block the site itself with illegal content, the search will stop indexing.

This June, the largest producers and content distributors wrote a letter to the CEO of the Yandex group of companies Arkady Volozh with a demand to remove links to pirate resources from the search engine. More than 80% of traffic to illegal resources is a search, and the share of "Yandex" on the example of the 10 largest illegal resources in search traffic is about 78%, the authors of the letter cited the statistics of analytical services SimilarWeb.

"Yandex" should introduce an extrajudicial system to remove pirated links from search results, similar to the one that now operates with Google, rightholders insist. Google has special online forms for rightholders, if such a complaint is confirmed, the search engine excludes the corresponding resource from the issuance. The Russian Internet company has so far refused to do so.

Rightholders tried to get pirate resources out of Yandex search through the court. For example, several such lawsuits were filed by the publishing group "Exmo-AST", but each time the court did not find in the law grounds for such a clean-up search.

Therefore, the court's decisions on the claims of Gazprom-Media are a clear precedent. And before "Yandex" is a difficult choice, says the head of a major media company. If the company will stand on its own and refuses to remove links to illegal content from the Yandex.Video video search engine, then the whole service will be under the threat of blocking, he points out, if the links are deleted, then this opens up opportunities for a lot of similar suits on search issues.