Copyright infringement and piracy in Russia

This blogger previously reported on software piracy in Kenya. But piracy is an issue experienced worldwide.

In Russia there was an infamous copyright infringement case that was going on. Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music sued (as separate suits) Russian network vKontakta (VK) as the network works as an unauthorised (thus illegal) music store. The three international networks alleged that much of the music featured on the network, VK, has been stolen from their own networks.

Warner and Universal, being left to deal with the suit and the court’s decision after Sony’s settlement, appealed but this appeal was also overruled.

In March of 2016, a Saint Petersburg and Leningradsky Region Appeal Court found VK not liable of copyright infringement. Even before this judgement was made, Sony Music settled their suit against VK out of court in July of 2015. The exact details of the deal are not public but it seems that Sony was content with the decided amount and deal.

This may be the reason that nearly a year later, Warner Music followed Sony’s decision as they too made a confidential out of court settlement with VK in April of 2016. This leaves Universal to fight the legal battle on their own until they (like Sony and Warner) decide to settle on out of court arrangements.

Warner’s decision was a good business move such that (as in the words of Warner Music Russia CEO, Alexander Blinov):

“We believe there is huge potential to grow our business in Russia, and further invest in local talent, when artists and rights holders are compensated fairly…these arrangements represent a significant step on the journey to a properly functioning market.”

The VK CEO, Boris Dobrodeev, seemed to agree with Blinov as he stated that:

“VK continues to move towards cooperation with record companies and other rights holders…this agreement is another important milestone in this direction, and both music fans and rights holders will benefit.”

But what does this decision mean for piracy and copyright infringement in Russia? The court’s decision and the out of court settlements seem to be a dark cloud over future copyright infringement cases in the Russian (and international) music industry – courts can use the decision by the Saint Petersburg and Leningradsky Region Appeal Court as precedent for future cases.

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