Here Come the Attack Dogs

A columnist at the Moscow Times is not amused by Dmitry Medvedev’s “rule of law” speech, which criticized the lack of respect for copyright laws by Russian citizens who buy pirated DVDs and CDs while at the same time Vasily Alexanyan was withering away without medical treatment.

He writes: “Whether he meant it or not, Medvedev’s example for Russians’ disrespect of the law is equivalent to shouting “Attack!” to a Doberman — except the dog in this case is the corrupt law enforcement officials who are salivating at the prospect of extorting bribes from small companies. Mark my words, these campaigns, initiated under the noble slogan of strengthening the law, will be a big financial blow to small businesses. At the same time, naive Westerners will be pleased to hear that Russia is finally cracking down on pirated goods.What is most disturbing is that are so many cases like Aleksanyan’s in which citizens are subjected to sadistic treatment by government officials who are backed by the courts and cops. And now imagine an honest judge or policeman who would happily sign onto the high standards that Medvedev is calling for in his campaign speeches but sees the lawless behavior of the same authorities toward Aleksanyan. The only conclusion you could reasonably make from this vivid contradiction is that Medvedev is either a hypocrite or a demagogue. Corrupt law enforcement officials, however, see this as an endoresment to pursue their old ways. They know that even if they go too far, the worst they can expect is a gentle slap on the wrist from the higher-ups. This is exactly what happened to Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court. Only when Aleksanyan’s lack of medical care in custody began to tarnish the reputation of the government was he moved to a specialized clinic.“In fairness, along with Russia and China, you might be surprised to find out which country has one the worst records fighting piracy, proving that rule of law is a necessary, but not sufficient, element needed to enforce intellectual property rights.