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Majors sue vKontakte

By | Published on Thursday 3 April 2014


Sometimes controversial Russian social networking company vKontakte, or, which is basically Russia’s equivalent of Facebook (down to the colour scheme and page design), is facing copyright litigation from all three major music groups.

Sony, Universal and Warner have all filed separate legal proceedings in the Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Arbitration Court, with Russian music industry trade group NFMI and global record industry reps IFPI both backing the action.

As previously reported, it’s not the first time has been sued for allowing users to easily share music files across its networks. Previous litigation was driven by Russia-based music company SBA, and after losing that legal battle it looked like was looking to placate the music industry, by operating a more efficient takedown system, and seemingly speaking to the labels and publishers by building some kind of legit music service within its social networking platform.

But then in February was listed in the US Trade Representative’s ‘Notorius Markets’ report as a serious copyright infringer, and IFPI boss Frances Moore called on the social media firm to act and act quick to end unlicensed content distribution over its networks.

Moore told CMU: “Working with record companies vKontakte could be a powerful player in a fast-growing licensed Russian music sector. This does not need to mean that consumers would be deprived of free music – there are already licensed free streaming services [in Russia] such as Yandex and Trava. What it does mean is stopping unlicensed music, so that artists and record labels have the choice of how their music is distributed and get paid a fair return as a result”.

She continued: “For the music industry to grow and prosper, it needs digital partners that are licensed, that respect copyright and which pay artists and producers for their work and investment. VK’s music service, unlike others in Russia, is an unlicensed file-sharing service that is designed for copyright infringement on a large scale. We have repeatedly highlighted this problem over a long period of time. We have encouraged VK to cease its infringements and negotiate with record companies to become a licensed service. To date the company has taken no meaningful steps to tackle the problem, so today legal proceedings are being commenced”.

Meanwhile NFMI boss Leonid Agronov added: “Music companies in Russia need a secure environment where they can invest in artists, offer new music to consumers and develop a viable business. Today this is extremely difficult due to the unlicensed service of vKontakte, which is earning revenues from music without respecting the rights of those who created and produced it. This is why NFMI has supported the efforts of the international industry to persuade vKontakte to stop its infringements and why we support the legal proceedings filed today. This is an action which can benefit the whole music industry in Russia, and an opportunity to improve the business environment for those who depend on copyright and other rights for their livelihood”.

The new lawsuits are seeking a court order forcing to remove some specific content from its servers, and to introduce new anti-piracy measures to help filter out unlicensed content. They also seek damages for past infringement in the region of $1.4 million.

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