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Russian Telecoms Regulator Gets vKontakte to Sign Piracy Agreement
April 30, 2014
Amanda Marie
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Back in April, we reported about copyright lawsuits filed against VK.com, formerly known as vKontakte, which is a highly popular social media site in Russia commonly referred to as the “Facebook” of Russia. Three separate lawsuits for alleged music copyright infringements were filed by three record companies: Sony Music Russia, Universal Music Russia & Warner Music UK. The recording industry was seeking court orders to require VK to remove the infringing content from its service. The plaintiffs sought a court order which would require VK to implement “effective industry-standard measures, such as audio fingerprinting”, to prevent unauthorized sharing of the library content and to prevent unauthorized uploading of the companies’ catalogues. The lawsuits included a claim for compensation of just over RUB 50 million (US $1.4 million) for the infringing content.

In a report today by Complete Music Update, vKontakte has now signed an agreement, a "memorandum of understanding," with the country’s telecoms regulator in regard to how VK will deal with the distribution of unlicensed content on their sites. Up until now, VK had refused to sign the agreement. Several other Russian Internet sites had already signed the agreement.

By signing the agreement, VK is committing to stepping up its takedown processes and implement audio fingerprinting technology which was mentioned in the lawsuits filed by the three record companies who were seeking a court order requiring them to do so.

As we mentioned before, the RIAA placed VK on the US Trade Representative's list of notorious markets, where they have been for four years. The announcement of the lawsuits in April was not VK's first instance of trouble with copyright infringement legal issues. They were found guilty in November of 2012 in a lawsuit brought forward by Russian music companies SBA Publishing and SBA Production. They were fined again in October of 2012 for copyright infringement, and ordered to pay 550k roubles ($17.8k) to Russian music label SBA Gala Records, which is a licensed distributor of EMI Music’s international catalogue.

In October of 2013, vKontakte won a copyright lawsuit filed against them by music company Soyuz. The court ruled that the social networking site was not liable for its users that were uploading recordings owned by the music company without permission, and also noted that no vKontakte employees had been involved in the copyright infringement. The St. Petersburg court also stated that VK couldn’t be expected to monitor everything that was uploaded to its servers.

While VK has finally signed the agreement, the outcome of the lawsuits by the three record companies is still pending.

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