Gala Records emerges as Russia’s most successful copyright litigator; VKontakte penalized
Gala Records, Russia’s first private music record label, is now also the first success story in Russia’s uphill battle for a world-class copyright law. The Russian court has sustained its second claim against Vkontakte, or VK.com, the leading social network in Russia, which was accused of illegally running Gala’s proprietary tracks. The Court has awarded 550,000 rubles, or over $16,900, in damages to Gala.
The persistent sticking point marring relationships between the two businesses are tracks by MakSim, a Russian pop diva, which the record label claims have been illicitly displayed over and over again by VKontakte users. In February 2012, the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Regional Court of Arbitration already handed down a ruling obligating the social network to pay Gala 210,000 rubles, or $6,460, in damages.
The damage award could have been much higher had the record label proved that VKontakte had uploaded the pirated MakSim tracks for intended corporate gains. It failed to prove that, however, and the court ruled that a social network cannot be held accountable for what its users upload on their own. The court did find VKontakte guilty, however, of taking a middle-of-the-road and “passive” position in responding to the copyright holder’s requests to remove the litigious content.
Nine months later, the court of arbitration might have followed the same legal pattern of penalizing the social network’s “passive conduct and emphatic aloofness as regards content,” an approach recommended for similar cases by the Russian Supreme Court of Arbitration. The St. Petersburg court has yet to publish the explanation for its decision.
With the February ruling upheld by the court of appellate jurisdiction and the damages fully paid, Gala Records is still Russia’s only copyright holder to have won through courts of both first recourse and appeals. According to Olga Kim, the Gala deputy CEO, the record label plans to file more suits against VKontakte.
A huge amount of music and video content is shared, legally or not, by VKontakte users. The site claims to delete dozens of thousands of illegal files each day, which obviously remains insufficient to remove all the illegal content.
In another copyright win, in May Gala goaded Mail.ru Group, the leading Russian Internet company, into a license agreement authorizing the latter to run 500 music tracks on a completely legal basis.