The Commercial Court of St. Petersburg has ruled that social networking site vKontakte is liable for copyright infringement arising out of unlicensed offering of popular music on its website. The court’s ruling is landmark in the sense that it marks Russia’s first major legal protection of international intellectual property.
The ruling is so major, in fact, that the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) has issued a press release:
Reacting to the judgment, IFPI CEO, Frances Moore, said: “This is a very important ruling for Russia. It shows that sites like vKontakte cannot build a business on making music available without licences from content owners. Such services are directly liable for the unlicensed music they make available. They cannot avoid liability by shifting responsibility on to their users.”
Frances Moore added that: “Russia is a market with the potential to develop a thriving legitimate music market, but this prospect is currently being undermined by unlicensed services such as vKontakte. Millions of unlicensed songs are freely available through vKontakte, competing unfairly with licensed services, and this must stop.”
It is definitely a big deal when notorious intellectual property infringement zones, like Russia, begin to enforce international copyright laws. Clearly Russia is beginning to guide itself toward a more copyright friendly policy. Additionally, this ruling might very well undermine the policy arguments in favor of the recently debated ACTA legislation.