On June 15, a court in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don (not to be confused with the other Rostov, which is not on Don), fined the English band Deep Purple after finding that the band had illegally performed copyrighted songs at a concert there in October 2008. The fact that the copyrighted songs were Deep Purple's own songs, to which Deep Purple holds the copyright, does not seem to have affected the outcome of the case. The court's decision was fantastic in its idiocy.
"Bloggers have already called the decision 'fantastic in its idiocy,'" said the English-language site Russia Today, and I am no exception, but it may actually be the underlying law that is idiotic, or the level of corruption that is fantastic. Apparently, under Russian law all visiting foreign performers must register with something called the "Russian Authors' Society," because the Society represents the rights of foreign performers in Russia – whether they have asked it to or not. But it all works out, you see, because the fine is paid by the infringing party (in this case, Deep Purple) to the victim of the infringement (also Deep Purple), minus a small commission, coincidentally payable to the Russian Authors' Society.
At least one blogger is calling this "extortion."
Deep Purple, which remarkably is still touring almost 40 years after its first album was released, had been to Russia earlier in 2008, when it actually played at the Kremlin. Dimitri Medvedev, who was about to be installed (I mean elected) as Russia's next president, had mentioned that Deep Purple was his favorite band, and the band was duly flown in to perform at the State Kremlin Palace. That show totally rocked:
As [Deep Purple] belted out some of their 1960s and 1970s classics, including their signature hit "Smoke on the Water", the audience of mostly middle-aged men sat impassively in suits and ties, with only the odd shake of the head to indicate they were listening.
Attempts by the five-man band's front man Ian Gillan to encourage audience participation led to the kind of slow, steady handclap which used to reverberate around the wood-paneled hall during Soviet Communist Party congresses.
Vladimir Putin, then still the president, left after the Russian banjo quartet and did not stay around for any imperialist heavy metal. Putin now is technically only prime minister, but is believed to still wield a great deal of power. The editors of Russia Today are clearly still big Putin fans, given the number of Putin-related stories there and their generally worshipful tone. The top story when I checked it out was "Putin plunges into 'plankton soup,'" which sounded like it might be something from Putin's blooper reel but turned out to be about him allegedly exploring Lake Baikal. "It takes just a few minutes for Vladimir Putin to dive nearly 1400 meters (4,600 feet) and become the first Russian politician to reach the bottom of the world's deepest freshwater lake." Turns out he was riding in a submarine, but it still sounds pretty impressive.