To be imprisoned for plagiarism in Russian Federation is possible, in theory...

By: Aleksey Belousov

According to part 1 of Article 146 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation plagiarism is criminally punishable provided that an author or any other rights holder has suffered significant damages. Sanctions may be from a fine in amount of “to 200000 rubles” till 6-month arrest.

What should be understood under ‘significant damages’ for the purposes of Article 146 of Russian Criminal Code is not defined in law.
Taking into consideration that plagiarism may be aimed at making money and that it constitutes a way of illegal use of a copyrightable work, one may conclude that plagiarist can be imprisoned, at the utmost, for 6 year term (part 2, part 3 of Article 146 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation).
In real life a plagiarist in Russian is unlikely to be ever sentenced. The reason for this is the society’s approach to plagiarism that prevails in Russia. According to this approach plagiarists do not considered to be law-breakers: “yes, a plagiarist did wrong but it would be extremely difficult to find somebody who had never done similar things…”
What about Ukraine?
Criminal Code of Ukraine has not definition of plagiarism unlike the law of Ukraine “On copyright and related rights” (Article 50).
If plagiarism incurred significant losses (for the moment it amount to USD1200), than a fine of USD825 to USD2100 may be imposed. The most serious penalty for this crime is 5 year imprisonment (Article 176 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).
Actually there is almost nobody in Ukraine sentenced for plagiarism. For the reasons similar to those in Russia.

To decrease the number of acts of plagiarism both in Russia and Ukraine would be possible if this copyright infringement becomes decriminalized and punished with much higher fines. Such solution would lead to significant increase of corresponding cases with administrative punishment which, in its turn, would make public more informed about the problem and prevent some people from engaging in plagiarism.