Russia blocks stock photo site Shutterstock

Russia's heavy-handed approach hits the stock photo industry.

Anyone who understands how Russia and Russians think and function will find themselves nodding knowingly upon reading TorrentFreak's description of the country's system put in place to counter the latest instance of a perceived copyright infringement – and other, (un)related, digital issues.

The approach is described as “streamlined.”

“Streamlined” is an excellent way to put into words what some might describe as an inherent approach to solving a number of problems all at once with little regard to any fine detail. That's how Russia works.

“Steamrolling” is another way to put it.

There's also the issue of inertia – once a large entity like Russia gets rolling – nobody knows where it might stop.

In this case, the country reportedly chose to combine copyright infringement concerns regarding legitimate content offered by Shutterstock – a US provider of stock imagery – with nothing less than anti-terrorism and content offensive to the state and the nation.

The point being – and hopefully not lost on anyone – is this: once these issues get coupled in this dramatic way – pretty much nothing can decouple them.

TorrentFreak's report explains that this particular case has been triggered by a Shutterstock-compiled image providing offensive imagery – combining the Russian state flag, with that of excrement.

“Russian authorities do not take kindly to their national symbols depicted in such a fashion and have laws in place to prevent it,” TorrentFreak writes.

No kidding.

In theory, Shutterstock could remove the offending image to continue doing their business in Russia – which is now reportedly blocked by Russian ISPs at two Shutterstock-related IP addresses (one in Germany, one in the Netherlands).

But Russia is also targeting the domain.


“As highlighted by Russian digital rights group Roskomsvoboda, which first reported the news, this is particularly problematic since rather than tackling just a single URL, a whole HTTPS subdomain is in the register,” TorrentFreak reports.

But there's more: Russia's primary concern – of protecting their state symbols online – might not work so well when it comes to outside copyright holders.

Shutterstock, of course, could put an end to all this by removing the images that are perceived as offensive by Russia. Until, that is – another case, raised by another country, arises.

Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]