Business News Digital Labels & Publishers Legal

Russian court rules against labels in ongoing vKontakte dispute, IFPI announces appeal

By | Published on Friday 4 March 2016


The International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry has confirmed that Universal Music and Warner Music plan to appeal the latest ruling in Russia over the liabilities, or not, of social media firm vKontakte for all the music piracy that occurs on its networks.

As previously reported, Universal and Warner sued vKontakte in 2014, with the cases getting to court last year (Sony Music also sued, but settled). The initial judgement in the two cases was something of a mixed-bag, in that the court said vKontakte must do more to stop the unlicensed distribution of music over its platform, but refused to award the major music firms damages for past infringement on the social network.

Both sides then claimed victory in the case, with the record companies saying their key aim was to force vKontakte to stop the infringement on its networks, rather than to win damages, so they were happy with the result. The social media firm, meanwhile, said the lack of damages vindicated its arguments, and as for the order to do more to combat piracy, well, it was doing a whole load more already, so no real changes would be required.

Despite both sides claiming victory, the judgement was nevertheless appealed, and was therefore back in court this week, and this time the ruling was indisputably in vKontakte’s favour. In two separate rulings – on the Universal and Warner cases respectively – appeal judges overturned the part of last year’s judgement that said vKontakte must do more to combat piracy, but upheld the no damages bit.

The IFPI confirmed pretty quickly that both Universal and Warner would now appeal the appeal. The trade group’s CEO Frances Moore told reporters: “These are disappointing judgments which are out of step with rulings both in Russia and around the world, and leave Russia as one of the very few significant music markets in the world that is dominated by a single unlicensed service. The decisions will be appealed”.

Full details of this week’s judgements, and the rationale behind them, are yet to be published. As previously reported, vKontakte has had runs in with various local and global music and other content companies, with a group representing the book industry recently seeking a web-block injunction against the social media platform in the Moscow courts.