The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry is praising a judgment in Russia against vKontakte, a popular social networking site boasting more than 110 million registered users, for copyright infringement.  Experts are calling this a landmark IP action in an area of the world where copyright challenges abound for creative content producers. The1709blog.blogspot.com reports on the Commercial Arbitrazh Court decision out of St. Petersburg finding vKontakte guilty of illegally providing unlicensed music to users via their unlicensed music service on its online site.  Plaintiffs and members of the Russian Gala Music Group, SBA Publishing and SBA Production, had sued, asserting that vKontakte provided online user access to their sound recordings and music compositions without licensing agreements. 

image by www.bit-tech.net
In a nutshell, the basis for the infringing activity claim is the massive amount of Russian and International sound recordings made available to online users via the streaming of music.  Moreover, as reported in ifpi.org, the court reasoned that users were encouraged to create unlawful downloading apps to obtain vKontakte’s music content.  As a result, further cases are pending against vKontakte.

In an article by top40-charts.com, France Moore, the CEO of IFPI, stated that:

This is a very important ruling for Russia.  It shows that sites like vKontakte cannot build a business on making music available without licenses from content owners.  Such services are directly liable for the unlicensed music they make available.  They cannot avoid liability by shifting responsibility on to their users.

Moore’s reaction continues in a report by recordoftheday.com with his added statement that:

Russia is a market with the potential to develop a thriving legitimate music market, but this prospect is currently being undermined by unlicensed services such as vKontakte.  Millions of unlicensed songs are freely available through vKontakte competing unfairly with license services, and this must stop.

Moreover, Russia is a huge online market in Europe.  A discussion of vKontakte’s valuation appears on netservpiracy.co.uk, where its estimated at $2 million-$3 million.