Russian Social Network Sued for Music PiracyAdded: Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Category: Recent Headlines Involving File Sharing > Current Events
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Three largest music labels have started lawsuits against Russian social network VKontakte (InTouch), complaining that the service has deliberately fostered massive music piracy. Warner Music UK, Sony Music Russia, and Universal Music Russia have all filed separate lawsuits in the Russian court, in cooperation with the local industry body and the IFPI on the cases.
The music studios claim that VKontakte, which accounts for about 143 million registered users globally (88 million of them being in Russia), stores tons of copyrighted music uploaded by its members while refusing to strike licensing deals with the copyright owners.
IFPI chief executive claimed that VK’s music service is actually an unlicensed file-sharing service designed for copyright violation on a large scale. The international body pointed out that they have repeatedly highlighted the issue over a long period of time and even encouraged VK to cease the infringement and negotiate with music labels to become a licensed service. However, “Russian Facebook” failed to take any meaningful steps to address the problem.
The copyright owners believe that the availability of downloadable music on the site harms licensed digital music services in the country, such as local players Yandex (“Russian Google”) and Trava (Grass), and global services iTunes and Deezer. The Russian recorded music revenues are rapidly falling (like anywhere in the world though), putting it outside the top 20 countries.
As for the social network, its representatives declined to comment on the issue on the grounds that they haven’t yet received any claims filed by the labels. Of course, these lawsuits aren’t the first time VK has been taken to court for copyright infringement: a couple years ago, for instance, the company lost a case filed by local music firms. Later, VK was fined in another copyright violation case.
Although the IFPI claims that VKontakte failed to address the problem, the company doesn’t agree. Indeed, a year ago lots of songs by global artists, such as Justin Bieber, the Rolling Stones and Adele, were being removed by VKontakte in response to requests from labels.
The industry observers note that lawsuits come at a sensitive time for the service: its “Mark Zuckerberg” resigned just a few days ago, blaming pressure from the VK’s Kremlin-linked owners. The problems began when Pavel Durov, the site founder, had refused to take down groups on VK that were organizing protest marches against the President Vladimir Putin.
As a result, VKontakte’s offices were searched by investigators, and a fund of the oil mogul close to the Kremlin acquired 48% of the service. Three months ago, Pavel Durov sold his VK shares to telecoms executive, whose company is also controlled by a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.
The site founder explained that the freedom of action of the CEO in managing the company has significantly decreased, and it became too hard to remain with those principles on which VK is based.
More recently, the “Russian Facebook” has been in the news because of offering a job to the well-known NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden after the latter was granted temporary asylum in the Russian Federation. The social network was also criticized for hosting homophobic groups using the service to lure gay men to venues where they would be attacked.
Pavel Durov may now focus on his new project – Telegram, a German encrypted messaging app startup that he acquired with his brother Nikolai. Telegram recently added 5 million new users in a single day when Facebook announced it was buying rival WhatsApp.
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Tuesday, April 8th, 2014No comments
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