Record Labels Sue Russian Facebook Over Large-Scale Piracy

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After numerous warnings the music industry has run out of patience with vKontakte, Russia's equivalent of Facebook. Demanding more than $1 million in damages, this week Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music each filed separate lawsuits in Russia, accusing the social network site of facilitating large-scale copyright infringement.

vkFor several years vKontakte, or VK, has been marked as a piracy facilitator by copyright holders and even the U.S. Government.

In several Special 301 Reports published by the United States Trade Representative, Russia’s Facebook equivalent has been criticized for the huge quantities of unauthorized media it hosts. As a result it is currently labeled a “notorious market”, a term usually reserved for piracy’s apparent worst-of-the-worst.

In common with many user-generated sites, VK allows its millions of users to upload anything from movies and TV shows to their entire music collections. Unlike Facebook and other major players, Russia’s social network has been very slow to adopt anti-piracy measures.

Three major record labels – Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music – have now taken their concerns to the Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Arbitration Court. The labels accuse VK of running a service that facilitates large-scale copyright infringement and are demanding countermeasures and compensation.

The record labels have asked for an order requiring VK to implement fingerprinting technology to delete copyrighted works and prevent them from being re-uploaded. In addition, Sony, Warner and Universal are demanding 50 million rubles ($1.4 million) from the social networking site to compensate for losses suffered.

“VK’s music service, unlike others in Russia, is an unlicensed file-sharing service that is designed for copyright infringement on a large-scale,” IFPI’s Frances Moore says in a comment.

“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,” Moore adds.

VK has yet to respond to the accusations. Russia’s telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor previously said that VK was trying very hard to better their anti-piracy practices, but these efforts apparently came too late.

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