Punitive damages have come to Russia

Moscow Arbitration Court has ordered unprecedented, to Russian standards, compensation for the violation of copyright. Producer of TV series ‘Ulitsy razbitikh fonarey’ (‘Streets with broken lamps’) yesterday has been granted 1.72 billion roubles (USD$54 million) in damages to be paid by the producers of TV series ‘Opera’ (‘Field officers’) and ‘Opera – 2’ (‘Field officers - 2’), Kommersant reports.

Russian law does not, generally speaking, recognise punitive damages. Compensation must be based on actual and verifiable losses. Move towards more rigorous legislation was made in January 1, 2008 with the introduction of Part Four of the Civil Code. Now courts can grant damages two times of the actual loss.

In practice, Russian courts are reluctant to award large amounts. Historically, judges have been de facto pro-debtor biased. Yesterday’s decision shows a growing trend to the contrary and that the IP law enforcement is tightening.

‘Streets with broken lamps’, consisting of 42 series, is the first commercially successful serial created in Russia. Production started in 1992, and in 1997 it appeared on TV screens. The film was bought by the Channel One, the state backed broadcaster with the widest reception area and largest audience.

The serial has become a record, both on TV and in VHS sales, which can probably be explained by an unusual, down to earth, angle it looks at the work of policemen. The police are shown as a bureaucratic, poorly financed organisation where many, though not all, cops are still ready to do their job well.

Sometime afterwards, production company ‘Phoenix-film’ created similar serial ‘Field Officers’ and ‘Field Officers – 2’ (total 72 series) with the similar story, actors, and based on books of the same author. The film was aired on largest TV channels: RUSSIA, NTV, and REN TV.

In 2004 producers of ‘Streets with broken lamps’ started legal actions against ‘Phoenix-film’ and in 2008 court in St. Petersburg ruled that the second serial was in fact a sequel of the original movie, made without the copyright holder’s permission, and prohibited its usage.

The rest was easy. Moscow court requested the agreements between ‘Phoenix-film’ and TV channels, doubled the contracts value and granted the result as a compensation.



September 24, 2009





Very good precedent!