As many feathers as Russian president Vladimir Putin is ruffling around the world at the moment, Hollywood is not among them. On the contrary, the controversial leader is becoming something of a firm friend to the industry.
Following a commitment from Russia to block piracy sites last year, Putin this week struck down a proposal limiting the number of U.S. movies allowed into the country. Describing filmmakers in the United States as “talented and successful people we can learn from,” Hollywood’s unlikely ally delivered an uncompromising commitment to giving Russian audiences what they want, without limitation.
Unfortunately, getting what they want when they want it is exactly the issue that president Putin must taken up with his domestic audience if his belief in creativity is to be fully realized.
Russia ranks among the world’s “most notorious markets for piracy,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) own report. Sites based in the country include VKontakte, a domestic competitor to Facebook, and the less well-known but no less damaging Rapidgator.net, both of which are heavily used to share unlicensed content, including many of the American movies that president Putin so admires.
So while the MPAA will undoubtedly applaud moves that keep popular movies flowing into Russia without restriction, it will simultaneously be urging the country’s lawmakers to focus on protecting the copyright of those films when they arrive. This is no less important to Russian filmmakers who would benefit from greater income and legitimate exposure of their work to an audience at home, which is often the launch pad for international acclaim.
Even so, during a period of history in which Vladimir Putin will almost certainly be cast as the villain, it’s an intriguing plot twist to see him going to bat for one of the Western world’s most successful cultural exports.