The Russian social network VKontakte (VK) has long been criticized for its passive approach to piracy. The site has millions of users, some of whom use it to share copyrighted content.
As a result the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has labeled the site a “notorious market” on several occasions, and last week the MPAA and RIAA advised the Government to maintain this listing in its upcoming report.
The movie studios and record labels claim that VK is still not doing enough to address the piracy issue. However, in a letter (pdf) to the USTR, VK director Dmitry Sergeev disagrees.
VK’s director admits that the social network has a history of being used for piracy, especially audio. However, in recent years 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 notes.
Sergeev says that his company can’t control all information that’s uploaded to the site. Scanning all uploaded files for possible copyright infringement is therefore not a realistic option.
“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,” he notes.
However, VK has clear terms of service that forbid sharing of unauthorized material. In addition, users have to agree that they are authorized to share a file every time they upload something.
The company also processes DMCA-style takedown notices. This means that copyright holders can make files inaccessible if they spot infringing content. This is similar to how other large Internet services work and more than 450,000 notices have been submitted so far.
While the MPAA and RIAA label VK as a piracy haven, VK emphasizes that plenty of content is shared legally. Many starting artists in Russia use it as the most important platform to promote their work, and many established musicians are happy to share their work as well.
“A very large amount of VK’s content is uploaded absolutely legitimately. For instance, lots of famous musicians, singers, authors and other IP owners enthusiastically use VK.com for their own purposes of promotion,” he says.
VK’s director lists several examples of popular artists that have official profiles, including Tiësto, Armin Van Buren, Shakira, Moby, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys.
And there’s more. VK says it has reached agreements with various copyright holders to share revenue and it’s currently negotiating licensing deals with Sony/ ATV, Warner Chappell and Music Publishing Group and others.
In addition, the company also implemented a fingerprinting technology that automatically prevents uploads of infringing audio files for which it already received a takedown notice. This measure aims to prevent the takedown “groundhog day” the RIAA complained about.
Considering its long list of anti-piracy initiatives VK asks the United States Trade Representative not to include the site in the upcoming 2014 Out of Cycle Review of Notorious Markets. Whether this will be the case or not, will become clear in a few weeks.