Music companies have long fought battles to control the
dissemination of their products over the Internet and preserve
the flow of royalties into their own accounts and those of the
artists they represent.
Labels Sony Music Entertainment, Vivendi SA's Universal Music
Group and Warner Music UK argue VK, known as Russia's answer to
Facebook Inc, offers a service allowing large-scale infringement
of the rights of copyright holders, the International Federation
of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said.
"The company operates an unlicensed music service involving a
huge library of copyright-infringing tracks that are stored on
its website. The service provides unlimited access to this
repertoire, enabling its tens of millions of users to search and
stream music," IFPI said in a statement.
VK, controlled by Russian Internet group Mail.Ru, is the second
largest social media network in Europe after Facebook. Its
in-house spokesman could not be reached for comment and the
company's external public relations adviser could also not be
reached. They did not respond to emails requesting a response.
Reuters also put news of the lawsuits to Mail.Ru but a
spokeswoman declined comment.
Sony Music Russia, part of Sony, Universal Music Russia and
Warner Music UK have filed three separate lawsuits with the St
Petersburg arbitration court, seeking orders requiring VK to
remove the infringing repertoire from its website, IFPI said.
"We have repeatedly highlighted this problem over a long period
of time," IFPI Chief Executive Frances Moore said. "We have
encouraged VK to cease its infringements and negotiate with
record companies to become a licensed service. To date the
company has taken no meaningful steps to tackle the problem, so
today legal proceedings are being commenced."
The lawsuits also include a 50 million rubles ($1.4 million)
Representatives of Sony Music Russia and Universal Music Russia
said they could not comment. Warner Music declined to comment.
($1 = 35.3550 Russian rubles)
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York;
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