Copying Electronic Information: Ideas by SUSU Lawyers Fixed into Law

On January 8, 2019 the Russian Federation Federal Law No. 533-ФЗ as of 27.12.2018, which introduced Article 164.1 into the Russian Federation Criminal Procedure Code formalizing the procedures for the seizure of electronic media and copying information from them in the course of investigations. The appearance of this article was preceded by many years of work by lawyers, including researchers from South Ural State University.

The need for the legislative regulation on the procedure for copying electronic information was first announced by Sergey Zuyev (now Head of the Department of Law Enforcement and National Security, Doctor of Sciences (Law)) in 2002 at the annual international science and research conference held by our university’s Institute of Law. Those new ideas were given ambiguous feedback from researchers and several practicing lawyers. There were also doubts and wariness expressed in certain statements.

In 2003, Sergey Zuyev’s article on this same topic, co-written by Kliment Sutyagin (currently a judge of Stavropol Regional Court, Candidate of Sciences (Law)), was published in Investigator journal. This was followed by a few more publications and presentations at scientific events of different levels on this issue.

In 2015, South Ural State University postgraduate student Dmitriy Ovsyannikov (currently working for the International Police Cooperation Service of the General Department of Anti-Smuggling of the Federal Customs Service of Russia) successfully defended his Candidate of Sciences (Law) dissertation on Copying Electronic Information as a Means of Criminal and Procedural Substantiation, under the guidance of Sergey Zuyev. We will compare just a few of the points of his dissertation with the new article of the Russian Federation Criminal Procedure Code.

“The seizure and copying of electronic information are two relatively autonomous cognitive practices which can be successive and competitive with one another in certain conditions” (quote from abstract).

Now note the title of Article 164.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code: Seizing Electronic Media and Copying Information from Them in the Course of Investigations.

In the same abstract, you can find this provision: “Copying information is not allowed if this can prevent investigation of a crime or if, according to an expert, can lead to the loss of or alterations to the information.”

Today, the law provides for cases in which instead of copying, electronic media are seized, including this case: electronic media contain information, copying of which, according to specialists, could lead to its loss or alteration (paragraph 3 Part 1 Article 164.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code).

In the text of the dissertation itself, the postgraduate student stipulated: “A protocol on copying information and on the transfer of electronic media containing copied information is drawn up for the legal owner of seized electronic media, to which photographic negatives, photos, films, projection slides, audio recordings, video cassettes, drawings, plans, and diagrams created during investigation are attached; electronic media copied from other media is also attached. The protocol for search, seizure, or inspection of the copying of electronic media indicates the exact location, circumstances, and conditions of the discovery of digital information, procedure, and grounds for electronic copying of information, and individual characteristics of the media.”

At present, the law contains the following requirement: “The protocol of investigative activity must show the technical means used when copying information, the procedure of their application, the electronic media on which these means were applied, and the results achieved. The electronic media containing information copied from other media during investigation is attached to the protocol (Part 3 Article 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code).”

All of this absolutely confirms that South Ural State University’s legal researchers are studying important issues of theory and practice, and in many cases, their ideas significantly outpace legislators in the normative fixation of important issues of legal regulation necessary for forming common practice for law enforcement.

Marina Kovyazina
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