Russia Ally Belarus Legalizes Pirating Media From 'Unfriendly' Nations

Pirating software, music, and movies from the West is now legal in Belarus following sanctions over its support of the Ukraine invasion.
Russia Ally Belarus Legalizes Pirating Media From 'Unfriendly' Nations
Lukashenko and Putin. Image: Contributor / Contributor via Getty Images

The government of Belarus, which has remained an ally of Russia throughout the invasion of Ukraine, has temporarily legalized the piracy of media and intellectual property from "unfriendly" nations.

The law, which is dated January 3 on—Belarus' national portal for legal decisions—was passed by the government in late December and will remain in force until the end of 2024. It effectively legalizes the internet piracy of digital goods including computer software, movies, and music, if the rights holder resides in "foreign states that commit unfriendly actions against Belarusian legal entities and (or) individuals."

Belarus has long been subject to sanctions at varying levels, since President Alexander Lukashenko—who has referred to himself as Europe's "last dictator"—took power in 1994. Further sanctions were introduced by the West after Lukashenko's regime cracked down on internal dissent in 2020 following elections widely recognized as fraudulent. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the nation has faced further restrictions on trade involving technology supporting defense, aerospace, and maritime industries. Among other major companies, Amazon, Intel, and Airbnb stopped serving Belarus, and so did CD Projekt Red, the Polish video game company behind Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher games. 

Specifically, the law authorizes the use of foreign media and IP products within Belarus from countries that have sanctioned it without the permission of rights holders. The law states that the government will still collect royalties for the use of that material, but the royalties will be held by the patent authority. If the rights holders don't collect the royalties within three years—unlikely for companies barred by law from doing business in Belarus—the funds will be absorbed by the government budget. 

The law also covers physical goods, and authorizes the import of certain goods without the consent of rights holders in order to avoid "a critical shortage in the domestic market of food and other products."