Russian social site vKontakte sued by record companies for facilitating piracy

Three separate cases have been filed in St. Petersburg charging vKontakte with facilitating copyright infringement.  vKontakte is often called the Russian Facebook, and has approximately 143 million members, 88 million of whom are in Russia itself.  The three companies that are suing vKontakte are Sony Music Russia, Universal Music Russia and Warner Music UK.  This legal action is supported by the Russian group representing the music labels in Russia, the National Federation of the Music Industry (NFMI), and by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which is an organization representing music labels worldwide.

Vkontakte_LOGO

While lawsuits filed against websites for piracy are not particularly rare, this one is a bit unusual in that the record companies are only asking for 1.4 million dollars in damages.  With thousands upon thousands of songs being shared on the site, this figure is surprising.

The record companies have been complaining about this site and its methods of file sharing for some time.  vKontakte has been on the US Trade Representative’s annual report as a “notorious market” for piracy four years running.  The IFPI includes an explanation of how the site operates:

The VK site looks and functions in a similar fashion to Facebook. However, unlike Facebook, VK operates an unrestricted music file sharing service. It offers users the ability to upload and store music and video files which then become available for all other users of the service to search and stream. Any music file stored on VK can be added with a single-click to the user’s own music library. Music and video files uploaded by a user can be found by all other users regardless of the uploader’s privacy settings, and the site’s functionality does not enable the uploader to prevent them from being shared further, nor remove them from the service once uploaded.

You can read more about the story at the IFPI site.