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October 28, 2013 | International

RIAA highlights vKontakte and others in Notorious Markets submission to USTR

The RIAA submitted our recommendations in connection with U.S. Trade Representative’s annual “notorious markets” cycle, an initiative designed to expose businesses who operate illegally, whether by profiting directly from the sale or other distribution of illegal materials or from facilitating such theft—in many cases through the sale of advertising space. The common thread shared by these notorious markets is that they unfairly deny creators the opportunity to generate revenue from the commercial use of their works.

In our 2013 submission, we highlight certain sites that are so central to the activities of a particular society that they almost single-handedly prevent the development of a legitimate online music marketplace—sites such as Russia’s vKontakte, Ukraine’s, or Vietnam’s Zing. Others actively champion their supposed subversiveness by proclaiming to be advocates for freedom of expression while undermining the careers of creators whose very existence is based on expression—sites like the Pirate Bay, FilesTube (which proclaims “Download Everything!”) or Brazil’s Degraçaé, the English translation of which is “Free is much better.”

To be clear, this is not an exercise that takes places in a vacuum. Music labels today are aggressively working to create and expand partnerships with various platforms in all parts of the world to ensure that fans have access to their favorite music when they want it and how they want it. As highlighted in the 2013 IFPI Digital Music Report, “At the start of 2011, the major international [digital music] services were present in 23 countries. Two years later, they are in more than 100. Many countries, such as Kenya, Sri Lanka and Vietnam saw their first digital music service open in 2012. Globalisation is opening up new markets, with record companies now able to reach consumers in territories where there was little previous retailing infrastructure. There are now more than 500 licensed digital music services operating worldwide, offering 30 million tracks to consumers.”

That’s real progress. But no matter how we innovate, we are operating in the shadow of a problem that dwarfs the legitimate sector. This illegal activity undercuts legitimate services, prejudices the careers of artists, harms investors in content production, and cheats law-abiding consumers. Despite so many advancements in the music marketplace, and despite targeted, successful enforcement efforts by both the creative industries and the U.S. government, many avenues remain that enable profiteering from infringement. As long as these avenues are open, America’s economy and culture – which tremendously benefit from creative works – will be harmed. These avenues will not be closed without the commitment and cooperation of all responsible players in the online ecosystem.

We hope that by addressing these illegal markets, we can take a big step towards creating greater accountability that will expand opportunities for legitimate commerce. Quite simply, there is no place for open and notorious theft in a civilized world. Addressing the conduct of these notorious markets for piracy will go a long way towards promoting the rule of law, fueling creativity and innovation, and maintaining US economic competitiveness.

Neil Turkewitz
EVP, International

Note: A copy of RIAA’s submission is available upon request. Please contact