Nadezhda Mukhina on another victory scored by VKontakte against right holders
“Vkontakte” scored another tactical victory against right holders, which stand for legitimate use of content in the Web. The St. Petersburg Arbitration Court dismissed a 450 thousand roubles suit filed by the Monolit Records Company against “Vkontakte”.
The Monolit Records Company's interests were represented by the non-profit partnership for assisting in development of the market for audio-visual and music content in the Web (NP MAK). The said partnership filed the suit against the social network, seeking compensation for streaming tracks from debut album of a certain Nastya Zadorozhnaya.
This summer, the Moscow Arbitration Court shall entertain a similar claim filed by Monolit Records against the “Odnoklassniki” social network. However, this time they filed a 45 thousand roubles suit to compensate for streaming the songs of Zadorozhnaya. According to representatives of Monolit Records, they attempted to solve the issue with “Odnoklassniki” using a pre-trial settlement procedure; however, the social network declined the proposal.
Perhaps, it was a correct solution of the problem, since St. Petersburg Arbitration Court has dismissed a similar claim against “Vkontakte” filed by representatives of right holders.
This being said, it was the first lawsuit initiated by “Odnoklassniki” (as the social network has first introduced musical section in summer 2011), while “Vkontakte” has been in litigation with several copyright holders for some years, and with varying success. The most high profile case was the legal battle between the social network and VGTRK (All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company), which started in 2008 and ended in spring 2011. At that time, the Supreme Arbitration Court of Russia supported “Vkontakte” in their suit against VGTRK relating to “Piranha Hunt”. In contrast, the social network was fined 220 thousand roubles for having posted tracks of MakSim and the band called “Infiniti”. The claim was filed by Publishing Company Gala Records. The same month, they also filed a similar claim against “Odnoklassniki”, relating to MakSim, and seeking 2 million roubles in compensation. The publishing company apparently hopes to repeat the success of the previous lawsuit. Gala Records is also planning to collect 550 thousand roubles from “Vkontakte” within the framework of another lawsuit, to compensate for 11 tracks of the band called “Tokyo”, released by “Pervoye Musikalnoye Izdatelstvo”.
By the way, “Vkontakte” periodically removes illegal content from the website without judicial procedures, on copyright holders' request. For instance, by doing this, they managed to resolve a conflict with producer company Amedia the summer of the year before last. The same Summer, “Vkontakte” and “STS Media” launched a common project which involves “STS Media” finding and removing pirated content (owned by “STS Media”), and replacing it by legal video content.
“Vkontakte.ru usage policy prohibits users of the social network from illegal loading and distributing intellectual property items,” said Nadezhda Mukhina, the lawyer of legal firm S&K Vertical. “The fact that the above policy was posted on the website is indicative of due care and diligence, which should be exercised by owners of a social network by the very nature of legal relationship. In 2010, the Federal Arbitration Court of the North-West District area already confirmed the fact that the network owners took all reasonable steps to prevent potential violations, by posting the above policy on the website. Website owners should definitely interact with intellectual property rights owners and stop infringements of copyright. However, copyright holders should help them, i.e., they should inform the website owners of infringements, because it would be technically impossible to filter tons of information daily posted on the website”.
To put this in perspective, the US use more tough measures to combat online piracy. This January the government seized file locker Megaupload.com, one of the major websites worldwide, despite that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) hasn’t been adopted yet. The Federal Bureau of Investigation charged Megaupload operators with piracy crimes, and accused them of causing about $500 million damages to copyright owners. The website was shut down, and several owners and operators (citizens of Hong Kong, Germany, Slovakia, and Estonia) have been arrested in New Zealand.