vKontakte Criticised For Inadequate Copyright Care

TThe Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has released its Special 301 Report – an annual effort which aims to highlight the “inadequate copyright protection measures” of some of the United States’ trading partners.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has since praised the report as an essential part of protecting the global creative community.

Neil Turkewitz, Executive Vice President, International, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), said, “This report is an essential contribution to the ongoing efforts to better protect the rights of the global creative community.

“Through its commendable efforts, USTR helps raise awareness about the need for critical reforms that enhance our culture and promote economic development and employment.”

Image credit: uni2biz.org

The RIAA endorsed the USTR’s identification of countries like Russia and China who “allow illegal services to operate”, calling the effects of services such as vKontakte (Russia) and Xunlei’s Gougou (China) “devastating” and the major stumbling block to “healthy competition in the provision of online music services”.

Turkewitz added: “vKontakte, Gougou and Sogou each operate extremely well-known and popular unlicensed music services that permit their users to access, stream or download millions of illegal titles.

“While they employ different techniques, the result is the same in each case—the stunting of the growth of legitimate online services unable to compete against this form of unfair competition. Each of these services deliberately gain market share by providing access to copyrighted works without any form of licensing.”

vKontakte describes itself as “the largest European social network with more than a 100 million active users”, but has received criticism for giving its users the chance to share larger files.

Earlier this year, VKontakte was found in breach of copyright by a court in Russia. The Commercial (“Arbitrazh”) Court of Saint Petersburg ruled in favour of Gala Records, who claimed the site was making Gala’s music compositions and sound recordings available without licensing agreements.

The case has been heralded as a landmark for copyright law in Russia, with many praising the Russian courts for their willingness to take on vKontakte, a company valued by some to be worth as much as $3bn.

vKontakte is now known as VK, having moved from vkontakte.ru to vk.com.

Samuel Agini is the Editor of Andrew Apanov’s Dotted Music.