Russia Looks at Legalizing Software Piracy to Offset Sanctions

Russia's military invasion of Ukraine has led to Western sanctions designed to punish the Russian economy.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It sounds like Russia may be getting a little desperate to stave off economic collapse in the wake of Ukraine-related Western sanctions. The new plan? Legalize certain forms of software piracy as a potential workaround for products whose companies’ have recently cut off distribution in Russia.

Torrentfreak reports that the Russian government has floated the idea of effectively rescinding legal punishments for people who use certain types of pirated software. That software would have to come from companies that have supported the current Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia. Piracy would also be allowed in cases where there was no Russia-based alternative to the pirated software, the proposed policy suggests.

The West recently instituted harsh economic sanctions against Russia, in a bid to halt President Vladimir Putin’s illegal military invasion of Ukraine. That invasion, which has sent shockwaves throughout Europe and resulted in hundreds of deaths, recently spurred G-7 nations to cut off vital economic flows to Russia. But a large number of private companies have also agreed to temporarily halt product sales and services in the country, as well. Big tech names such as Apple, Adobe, Samsung, and Microsoft have all jumped on this bandwagon, effectively making it impossible for the average Russian to buy a new Macbook or Galaxy smartphone, among many other inconveniences.


As a result of all of this, the Russian government has scrambled to come up with creative strategies to keep the nation’s economy moving and to allow its citizens continued access to vital, West-sourced tech. Torrentfreak notes that the Russian government’s plan to essentially greenlight certain forms of software piracy is part of a broader strategy recently released by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia. It’s an especially bizarre policy, given that Russia has historically been quite draconian when it comes to piracy.

But it makes sense, since Russia is really in dire straights right now. Those sanctions are putting a hurt on the country something terrible. The Economist went so far as to call them “savage,” Putin has characterized them as an “act of war,” and analysts have stated they seem clearly designed to “destroy” Russia’s economy. Because of all this, it’s no surprise Russia is looking to semi-illicit means to maintain stability—since its back is effectively up against a wall. Of course, there is one clearcut way out of this whole situation: stop the illegal war in Ukraine and pull Russian troops out of the region. Something tells me that’s not Putin’s plan A, however.