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vKontakte wins a copyright case

By | Published on Tuesday 29 October 2013


In an interesting turn of events, and one that won’t be welcomed by the music industry, Russian social networking firm vKontakte has won its latest legal battle with a local music rights company.

Facebook clone vKontakte – or – is the big player in the social networking space in Russia, and has come under criticism from both local and international music companies for allowing users to share music files across its networks.

With Russian copyright laws traditionally unhelpful to rights owners fighting file-sharing, the firm initially got away with the “it’s our users not us” defence, but more recently the country’s courts have got stricter on piracy, most notably in vKontakte’s legal battle with SBA/Gala last year, where the social networking company was deemed liable for the copyright infringement it enabled.

Since then the firm has reportedly become more proactive in removing copyright infringing files uploaded by its users to its servers (though the boss of indie-label-serving anti-piracy firm Muso told CMU that he’d always found helpful in this regard). Meanwhile the company is reportedly in talks with the majors and other music firms about launching some sort of legit music service.

But nevertheless, in a separate legal squabble between vKontakte and music business Soyuz, a St Petersburg court has ruled that the social networking set-up was not liable for its users uploading recordings owned by the music company without permission, noting that no vKontakte employees were involved in the infringement and the firm couldn’t be expected to monitor everything uploaded to its servers.

The ruling seems to be in conflict with the decision in the SBA case, and perhaps suggests that the clarity the music industry hoped it had secured in Russian law regards the liabilities of technology providers for the piracy they enable is not so clear after all. Though regarding vKontakte itself, the company’s current ambitions to make itself the Russian Spotify probably means it will continue to court the labels.