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VKontakte fight off copyright claims

0 11 November 2013

Social network VKontakte has recently won two cases brought against them for infringing the copyright of certain songs featured on their website. Experts are struggling to agree on whether or not the social network will be invulnerable to such claims in the future. 

Nikitin Digital Media Content lost a lawsuit worth $23,000 in early November against VKontakte in a St. Petersburg court. Nikitin's case related to ten Gregory Leps songs on the popular social networking site. Nikitin themselves own the exclusive rights to these tracks, including how they are made available to the public.

In October, the court in Petersburg dismissed the $150,000 claim of Russian record label, Studio SOYUZ, for copyright infringement. Their argued over 61 songs appearing on VKontakte, including songs from the album Pheonix by Aria, as well as songs from the album Todd Act 2: On the edge by The King and the Jester.

Writing on his own user profile, general director of VKontakte Ilya Perekopski, writes “Over the past month we have won 2 lawsuits against music copyright holders: Nikitin and Soyuz. The poor souls.”

Experts disagree over whether the social network will win similar lawsuits in the future. According to a member of the Phonographic Association of St. Petersburg, VK's is able to win these disputes by arguing that neither themselves nor any of the members of the site gain anything from the placement of the controversial music. However, “if the copyright holders can prove in court that VKontakte has a personal interest in the placement of restricted content on the site, the judgement could be different."

Timothy Bichev, general director of the Northwest Centre for Copyright Protection, considers that problems with the social network and the music they have on their site will continue. If copyright holders keep sueing them, it will eventually lead to a strengthening of the fight against piracy. However, companies such as Nikitin and Soyuz aren’t taking into account that the songs aren’t just on VK, but also on their users’ private hard drives at home.

Singer Tatyana Bulanova says that artists gain good publicity from having their songs and videoclips on the website, but would like to see an insignificant charge - 10 or even 100 rubles ($0.3 or even $3) - for downloading them.   


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