Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music have together filed legal action against Russia’s biggest social network VKontakte (VK) for “deliberately facilitating piracy on a large scale.”
The cases involve a slew of material VK should remove from its service, according to IFPI, the organization representing the recording industry worldwide.
The record companies are also seeking a court order requiring VK to implement effective industry-standard measures, such as audio fingerprinting, to prevent unauthorised re-uploading of specific repertoire and to prevent unauthorised uploading of the companies' catalogues generally.
The legal action includes a compensation claim for just over $1.4 million (50 million rubles) for the already pirated material.
The action is aimed to protect the rights of record companies investing in Russia and to improve the licensed music business climate. The litigation comes after months of preparation, during which repeated attempts have been made to persuade VK to tackle its copyright infringements.
The decision also comes as the world’s largest online music subscription service Spotify prepares to open up in Russia. The move will become another step towards an initial public offering.
"For the music industry to grow and prosper, it needs digital partners that are licensed, that respect copyright and which pay artists and producers for their work and investment,” said Frances Moore, the IFPI chief executive.
“VK's music service, unlike others in Russia, is an unlicensed file-sharing service that is designed for copyright infringement on a large scale,” Moore added.
The social network 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.
VK is the most popular social network in Russia, with more than 88 million registered users from Russia and 143 million worldwide, according to IFPI. Its music service has a vast amount of infringing material stored on its music service, with thousands of copies of most of the tracks in the Russian and US Top 20 Charts.
The social network generates revenue from targeted advertising, and the company is reported to have earned USD $172 million in 2012. VK has never paid the claimant companies for the use of their recordings.