We’ve repeatedly pointed out that less than a fifth of the Russian population has Internet access, which isn’t surprising given that the average wage is $3/hour and the cost of Internet use is similar to that in the West. The Russian website Veb Planeta recently carried the following op-ed item, translated by Profy (hat tip: Global Voices). It points out the flip side to this issue, namely that more than half the traffic on the Russian internet consists of thieves seeking to profit from lax Russian copyright protection:
Russia is well-known for its liberty when it comes to piracy: one almost never sees a court trial featuring any crime related to downloading content from torrents or using pirated software here in Russia. But I did not really know Russia has already become a safe shelter for foreign pirates – in the way that Las Vegas has become for the US people in gambling.
It now turns out that more than a half (52%) of all the visitors to all the web resources in the Russian internet segment are foreign pirates who rush to the local web resources looking for free content that is easily available on the popular Russian torrents.
All these numerous people only arrive to websites in the .ru top-level domain for one purpose: they will hardly visit a local search engine, read news or use any entertainment portals as they will quickly rush to one of the available torrents looking for the content that is not that easy to find online elsewhere.
As a result, the popular Russian Torrents.ru was visited by 2.7 million of Russians and 4.8 million of foreign visitors in March 2009 according to ComScore. The most impressive thing is that this traffic is only 3 times lower than that of The Pirate Bay which generates half of the entire world torrents traffic. So the scale is more than impressive to me already.
Additionally such foreign visitors may want to consume some porn content that is either free in Russia or much less expensive than it is elsewhere. And whatever the content is – some porn or some movies or music from torrents – the results are impressive as incoming foreign traffic is 1.5-2 times lower than outgoing traffic with foreign visitors eagerly downloading content they come looking for here.
So while copyright owners make life harder for anyone who is willing to get some content for free in Europe or in the US, here in Russia the legislation is still far from what it takes to make piracy manageable – hence the result with Russia now having a certain image of a country where you can grab all the content without the threat of punishment. And as a Russian I would not say I’m really happy about this new popularity of Russian web resources because it does not feel good to live in a country that steals content from people and welcomes other people to come and grab it for free.