The IFPI has welcomed what it calls a “landmark ruling” by a Russian court that internet company vKontakte’s music service is liable for copyright infringement. The commercial (“Arbitrazh”) Court of Saint Petersburg ruled that the social networking site with an unlicensed music service is illegally offering unlicensed music to its users. vKontakte is Russia’s most popular online entertainment platform. It has over 110 million registered users and over 33 million users per day, and is one of the top 50 most visited sites in the world. The case against vKontakte was brought by SBA Publishing and SBA Production, members of the Gala Music Group in Russia. The cases were based on vKontakte making Gala’s music compositions and sound recordings available without licensing agreements. The unlicensed vKontakte music service allows streaming of music from an extensive catalogue of Russian and international sound recordings and encourages software developers to create apps for illegal downloading of content via vKontakte. The IFPI says that several further cases are pending.
Reacting to the judgment, IFPI CEO, Frances Moore, said: “This is a very important ruling for Russia. It shows that sites like vKontakte cannot build a business on making music available without licences 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 added 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 licensed services, and this must stop.” Russia is now one of Europe’s biggest online markets. vKontakte is a business valued at between US$2 and US$3.9 billion.