Universal Music Appeals VKontakte Piracy Lawsuit

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After a defeat earlier this year, Universal Music has now announced that it will take its lawsuit against Russian social networking site VKontakte to appeal. Universal accuses the social network of facilitating mass-piracy and is demanding damages and tougher anti-piracy measures.

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

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. However, copyright holders often claim that Russia’s social network has failed to adopt proper anti-piracy measures.

Two years ago this resulted in a lawsuit filed at the Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region Arbitration Court, in which Universal Music and Warner Music demanded countermeasures and compensation for the large-scale copyright infringement VK allegedly facilitates.

Last year, the labels scored an important victory. The Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Arbitration Court ruled that although VK could not be held liable for infringement, it was obliged to implement “effective” filtering or other technology to prevent infringement of the labels’ rights.

However, a few months later this decision was overturned. The region’s Appeal Court decided that VKontakte is not required to implement broad anti-piracy measures, and maintained the position that the social network is not responsible for infringements committed by its users.

The labels were clearly disappointed by the overturned verdict and this week Universal Music officially lodged an appeal, Rapsi reports.

The music label hopes that VK will be held accountable and is demanding damages for the incurred losses. In the original complaint Universal asked for 13 music tracks to be removed from the site while seeking compensation of around 15.6 million rubles ($241,900).

Whether Warner Music has filed a similar appeal is unknown at this point, but industry sources previously said that the label was likely to pursue the case at a higher court.

A third record label, Sony Music, already ended its proceedings against VKontakte at an earlier stage. The company dropped its complaints last summer after reaching a confidential settlement with the social network.

Responding to various piracy allegations last year, VK director Dmitry Sergeev promised that the company would do its best to tackle the problem.

Sergeev admitted that the service has a history of being used for piracy, especially audio, but added that the company has put a lot of effort into its anti-piracy measures, often in cooperation with rightsholders.

“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,” Sergeev noted.

It’s now up to the court to decide whether VK’s efforts are indeed sufficient.


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