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vKontakte hits out at ‘piracy’ label

By | Published on Friday 7 November 2014


Russian social network vKontakte has written to the US Trade Representative asking that it not be included in the American office’s annual list of internet naughty boys, arguing that it has put a lot of effort into anti-piracy initiatives in recent years.

As previously reported, the Office Of The US Trade Representative puts out an annual report which includes a list of websites deemed to be “rogue” because of their record for infringing or enabling others to infringe intellectual property rights. The American music and movie industries input on that list, and the Recording Industry Association Of America recently filed its input for this year, with vKontakte still on its list of offending sites.

But, vKontakte argues that it has done much in recent years to combat the distribution of unlicensed music over its networks, particularly since it lost a legal battle with a Russian music company, and having since faced litigation from the Western record labels too.

In a letter to the US Trade Rep’s IP Director Susan Wilson, published by Torrentfreak, vKontakte’s Dmitry Sergeev writes: “Over the last years, especially in 2013 and 2014, VK took numerous steps to address copyright holders’ concerns. These steps were part of the VK long-term plan of improvement and cooperation with the rightsholders and copyright industry associations”.

Noting that some in the music community use vKontakte as a marketing channel, and that some music shared via the service is done so legitimately, he goes on: “VK does not have the technical capability to pre-moderate, filter, or otherwise prevent the uploading of works due to the enormous volume of information being uploaded by users on a daily basis and the fact that VK does not have reliable information confirming violation of copyright in advance”.

Earlier this year when the US Trade Representative published its last list of rogue websites, the boss of the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry, Frances Moore, wrote: “Russia should have a thriving, world-beating music business. One of the major reasons why it does not is because of vKontakte, the giant online social network whose unlicensed music service dominates digital music in Russia. Reporting over 240 million users, vKontakte uses unlicensed music to attract viewers, and generates substantial revenues from providing access to copyright-infringing music. This is choking the licensed market and draining the music scene of investment”.

Whatever Sergeev says, it seems unlikely the IFPI has changed its viewpoint, given the subsequent litigation and the fact the RIAA is still listing vKontakte as rogue. Though what viewpoint the US Trade Representative will now take remains to be seen.