Russian Social Network VKontakte to Pay Damages Over User-Uploaded Music

Under a recent court ruling, the Russian social network VKontakte, a local equivalent of Facebook, will have to pay 750,000 rubles ($11,600) in damages to the local record label Nikitn for illegal uploads of music tracks by its users.

The appeals court ruled that VKontakte shall pay 75,000 rubles ($1,160) per each of 10 tracks by local singer Grigory Leps in damages over copyright violation, making the total amount the highest compensation awarded to a record label in Russia in a music copyright case.

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In a separate lawsuit against the social network, the court awarded a 600,000 ruble ($9,280) damages payment to another local label, Soyuz, for illegal uploads of tracks by Lyubov Uspenskaya, Yolka, Ariya, Korol i shut and Ruki vverkh.

"We hope that our clients are satisfied with the judgment," Pavel Katkov, senior partner at the law firm Katkov and Partners, which represented Nikitin and Soyuz, told Billboard. "The sum of damages may not look significant, but it is important as an instrument for fighting illegal distribution of content."

"The result is achieved," he went on to say. "Although it was achieved thanks to very hard effort."

Katkov added that in the Nikitin lawsuit, the amount awarded in damages per track is the highest ever awarded in Russia to a plaintiff in a music piracy case for a single track.

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Meanwhile, VKontakte apparently wasn't disappointed with the judgment, either.

"The court has again confirmed that VKontakte is a good-faith information intermediary," the company's spokesman told Billboard.

Cases when music rights holders have been awarded damages over online copyright violation have been extremely rare in Russia.

Back in 2012, a court in St Petersburg ruled that VKontakte should pay 550,000 rubles ($8,500) to the local label S.B.A./Gala Records over illegitimate uploads of tracks by singer MakSim by the social network's users.

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That was the only previous occasion when VKontakte was forced to pay any damages to music rights holders. In other lawsuits, courts were satisfied with the company's claim that it had no control over user-generated content but was willing to remove any copyrighted material at the rights holder request.

Last month, a court rejected a 50 million ruble ($796,000) claim by Universal Music Russia and Warner Music UK in respect of the infringing repertoire by VKontakte users. Earlier this year, VKontakte signed a goodwill agreement with Sony Music Russia, which originally took part in the case, as well.


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