Belarus, which has faced sanctions from the United States for allying with Russia throughout the country’s invasion of Ukraine, has passed a law legalizing the piracy of media and intellectual property made in “unfriendly” nations.
As Vice reports, the law legalizes the piracy of digital goods like computer software, movies, and music that were made by rights holders residing in “foreign states that commit unfriendly actions against Belarusian legal entities and (or) individuals.” It also allows for the import of physical goods without the consent of rights holders in order to avoid “a critical shortage in the domestic market of food and other products.” According to Vice, royalties from the use of sanctioned goods will be held by the patent authority, and if they aren’t collected by the rights holders within three years, the Belarus government will absorb the money into its budget.
Belarus has faced sanctions from the West for decades, ever since President Alexander Lukashenko, who has referred to himself as Europe’s “last dictator,” took power in 1994. In 2020, the US tightened restrictions after the Belarus government cracked down on civil dissent following elections widely seen as fraudulent. Then, after the country aided Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration prevented companies from exporting materials that would support Belarus’ defense, aerospace and maritime industries. Biden also prevented technology and software from being routed through Belarus on its way to Russia.