Russia’s Facebook, vKontakte, is under fire for its allegedly poor handling of pervasive copyright infringement on its platform (literally translated from Russian, “v kontakte” means “in contact”). The Association for the Protection of Copyright on the Internet, or AZAPO, has sued vKontakte in Moscow City Court on behalf of author Zahar Prilepin for his book “Resident.” AZAPO claims that vKontakte has refused to respond to several takedown requests of unlicensed digital copies of “Resident.” AZAPO is seeking an injunction that would force ISPs to block vKontake’s 80 million daily users’ access to its social network.
vKontakte was previously sued by major music publishers Universal and Warner, as well as by two Russian record companies, in the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg. The Arbitration Court ruled that vKontakte was not meeting its obligation to combat piracy on its network. Though the Arbitration Court ruled that no damages were due to Warner and Universal, it did award damages to the Russian record companies. When asked why AZAPO did not seek redress through the Arbitration Court, and instead chose Moscow City Court, AZAPO’s director general responded that procedures in the Arbitration Court are too long and expensive, and copyright owners need a more swift method of resolving infringement. vKontakte, on the other hand, views this move as “pressuring” the company rather than engaging in a constructive conversation, which arbitration would provide. Russia’s reaction to enforcement of copyrights continues to evolve, and many will be watching to see if the AZAPO case alters the landscape for online revenues for books.