The Russian government may attempt to mitigate widespread Russian sanctions by legalizing piracy. Since the country’s invasion of Ukraine, multiple companies in the tech industry and video gaming — including but not limited to Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, CD Projekt Red, and EA — have since suspended and restricted sales, services, and various operations in Russia. While these measures are meant to pressure the Russian Federation toward peace with Ukraine, the Kremlin may impose unprecedented countermeasures in response.
How legalizing piracy would ease Russian sanctions
The Ministry of Economic Development of Russia has proposed a document (translation here) entitled “Priority Action Plan for Ensuring the Development of the Russian Economy in the Conditions of External Sanctions Pressure.” According to TorrentFreak, the document lays out various measures that would help stabilize the Russian economy, one of which would be to decriminalize software piracy and suspend legal penalties for using them.
The suggestion seeks to accomplish two things: deal with foreign companies who have revoked or refused to issue software licenses, and to lift civil and criminal liabilities for Russian companies who use pirated software — but only those specifically made by companies who have sanctioned Russia — so that they can continue to operate in the short term. The scope of this pirated software also includes video games.
That said, legalizing piracy has its limitations. Many businesses and users in Russia already use pirated software with one analysis stating that 91 percent of Russians prefer pirated content to legal ones. More to the point, even with pirated software, many require subscriptions to cloud services or online verification. That said, such a policy would only drive Russian companies to move away from Western markets entirely and toward in-country alternatives, which is what The Kremlin prefers.