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USTR Report Calls Out Russia's vKontakte, Others In Report On "Notorious Markets"

December 14, 2012
Ukraine's Ex.ua, China's Xunlei/Gougou and Vietnam's Zing also make list

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual report on “notorious markets” – physical and online locations where copyright theft is pervasive, damaging and undermines the respect for the rule of law. Featured prominently in this year’s report is illegal Russian social networking website vKontakte, a repeat offender which was recently ruled liable for copyright infringement by the Russian Supreme Court. Despite this ruling, vKontakte continues to operate an unauthorized music service.
“We commend the U.S. Trade Representative for this comprehensive report that shines a bright spotlight on the practices of sites that undermine the value of creators’ rights in the global marketplace, and which unfairly compete with legitimate services.” said Neil Turkewitz, Executive Vice President, International, RIAA.  “This report sends a clear signal these practices do not go unnoticed and should not go unchecked.”
“We especially note the inclusion of Russia’s vKontakte in the government’s report. This site – with more than 110 million registered users and the 36th most visited site worldwide, according to Alexa rankings – has just this year been declared liable for copyright theft by the court system in Russia. It is our hope that this report helps motivate Russian authorities to heed the call of its own judicial system – and of creators throughout Russia and the rest of the world whose work is routinely stolen on the site – by taking appropriate action against vKontakte, as well as other Russian notorious sites identified in USTR's report such as Rapidgator, which is currently the cyberlocker of choice for the distribution of illegal materials in the wake of the MegaUpload shutdown,” he added. 
Also included in the report is Ex.ua, a Ukrainian linking site that was the previous subject of criminal action but was reinstated after several cyber attacks were initiated on the Ukrainian government for taking such action. Said the report:

"Notwithstanding the progress made during the past year, there are several markets that continue to operate despite legal rulings or enforcement actions against them.  In particular, the vKontakte website continues to operate, via its social media site, a music service that courts in Russia have found to be infringing.  And in Ukraine, the website Ex.ua, which offers unauthorized downloading and streaming of various content, was shut down on January 31 by criminal law enforcement authorities, but was back online by February 2.  Servers and evidence seized in the raid of Ex.ua’s offices were reportedly returned and the criminal case was reportedly closed in June with no further action.  We urge the Governments of Russia and Ukraine to follow through on ensuring that notorious markets are not allowed to continue infringing operations."

“The timing is extremely important -- for a music community that has experienced significant decline throughout the past decade, we are now an industry that earns more than half its revenues from digital services and offers more than 500 licensed services in the global marketplace today,” said Turkewitz.  “This innovation cannot thrive if rights are not protected. What’s more, countries that allow the operation of illicit sites cause significant damage to their own local markets for creative goods and services.  Addressing the conduct of these notorious markets for creative theft will go a long way towards promoting the rule of law, fueling creativity and innovation, and maintaining U.S. economic competitiveness.”
More background details about additional sites listed in the report are below.

Canada – BitTorrent indexing sites

Canada is home to a number of the BitTorrent indexing sites. The Canadian government now has a unique opportunity to take action against many of these sites under its new law that clarifies the illegality of operating services based on promoting or inducing infringement.

China – Xunlei/Gougou and Vietnam – Zing

There is great hope for the development of Chinese and Vietnamese digital marketplaces that nourish Chinese, Vietnamese and American artists alike, but to realize that potential, it is essential that China and Vietnam complete reforms and take action that will prevent companies like Xunlei/Gougou and Zing from operating deep linking services based on providing access to infringing materials.

In Russia, China, Vietnam, Ukraine, Bulgaria and elsewhere, the operation of major pirate sites doesn't just marginalize the legitimate sector--it basically stops it in its tracks. That is certainly true of China's Xunlei, Russia's vKontakte, Vietnam's Zing, Ukraine's ex.ua, and Bulgaria's Zamunda.net and Arenabg.com. Not only do we today call for governments to take action against the sites listed in USTR's report, but we urge advertisers and ad-networks to stop the flow of money to notorious pirate markets by taking appropriate and responsible action.


The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies. Its members comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate recorded music produced and sold in the United States.

In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™ and Diamond sales awards as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.

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