With Megaupload shut down and Baidu fully licensed, the music industry has another pantomime villain to boo: Russian social network vKontakte.

The site, which has more than 110m registered users, has just been fined again for copyright infringement, with a court ordering it to pay 550k roubles ($17.8k) to Russian label SBA Gala Records, a licensed distributor of EMI Music’s international catalogue.

The ruling was based on 11 songs found being distributed illegally on vKontakte. It follows a similar legal defeat in February 2012, when the site was fined 210k roubles. The IFPI has hailed the new ruling, but is still not happy with vKontakte’s attitude when it comes to copyrighted music uploaded by users and then made available for others to stream and download.

“This ruling once again confirms that vKontakte is operating illegally by facilitating the distribution of unlicensed music. The company needs to take effective steps to address the persistent and large-scale infringement it is enabling to take place on its platform,” said IFPI boss Frances Moore in a statement, which also cites research claiming vKontakte ‘attracts 50 per cent of pirated traffic on the internet in Russia and hosts 77 per cent of pirated files found in the country’.

The IFPI suggests that the 11 licensed digital music services in Russia have ‘not developed to their full potential’ because of the easy availability of free music on vKontakte. But rather than simply restricting its upload and search capabilities, the real question is whether, like Baidu in China, vKontakte can become a licensed partner for the music industry rather than a foe for the long term.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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