This article originally ran in the March 2013 issue of AVN magazine.
We all know the tube sites notorious for copyright infringement. Pornhub, RedTube, Xhamster, Xvideos—to anyone following the destruction of our industry, these are well-known havens for pirated materials. However, there’s a far more nefarious tube site lurking out there you’ve most likely never heard of. The site is called Vk.com, and if you thought Pornhub was bad, Vk is Pornhub on steroids.
Vk.com isn’t a site solely dedicated to copyright infringement, but it’s safe to say the staggering amount of pirated material hosted there is one of the reasons the website is the fourth most viewed site in Europe. Vk has been called the “Facebook of Russia” and goes as far as having a very similar look and feel along with the blue color scheme. It’s a social networking site not totally unlike Facebook. You can sign up, meet people, and I’m sure do whatever the Russian equivalent of "poking" is. But if you’re also into looking for free pirated materials, Vk is a treasure trove of exactly that.
Just to give you a statistical idea … Pornhub has had nearly 14,000 URLs reported to Google as infringing. And while that number is staggering and also totally depressing, it doesn’t begin to compete with Vk’s 169,000-plus URLs reported for infringement.
Part of that is because unlike Pornhub, Vk doesn’t limit itself to pirated porn clips, but pirated media from all industries—porn, mainstream film and mainstream music.
The site is so brazen in its music piracy that on the main page of the site there is a “Music” tab, and clicking it opens a search box where you can pretty much search for any song from any musician and have it streamed to your computer instantly. Making matters worse, the site hides the URL of the song, making it difficult for a copyright owner to even report the infringement.
In 2010, the RIAA declared Vk.com the No. 2 illegal distributor of copyrighted music in the world. And again in 2011, the United States Trade Representatives named Vk among the most significant pirate databases in the world. Even the founder Pavel Durov is rumored to be a supporter of piracy. So while the site is attempting to be the Facebook of Russia, it’s also borrowing a page out of The Pirate Bay book, as much as it is Facebook.
While our Facebook in the USA is full of silly memes, pictures of your cat, and what you’re making for dinner, Vk is full of pirated movies, both porn and mainstream. And some users are downright prolific in their actions.
A few months ago we profiled Fabrice_70, an xhamster.com user who had uploaded over 11,000 infringing videos to xhamster.com. Note: Xhamster still has not terminated this repeat infringer, and he still is rewarded by the site as an “Xhamster Builder.” But where Xhamster has its one really notorious criminal it houses, Vk.com has a plethora of users in excess of 5,000 uploaded videos. It’s not uncommon to find a few notorious uploaders with thousands of pirated videos on sites like Redtube and Pornhub, but on VK, the number is staggering. Whether it’s Hollywood movies or entire site-rips of popular adult sites—the term “repeat infringer” doesn’t seem to translate to Russian.
But how is Vk.com when it comes to working with copyright holders? Well, the results seem to depend on whom you ask. We’ve had reports from clients stating that when they tried to report infringements, the complaints went unanswered, thus those producers seek us out in order to get the desired results. And I am happy to say that Vk has generally been compliant in responding to our DMCA notices.
This might be the result of increased scrutiny placed on the site by the U.S. government and producers of content, as the site looks to avoid potential legal action. It’s also worth noting that while for years Russia has been known as hostile to any U.S.-based intellectual property rights, in December 2012 a deal was announced by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk. The deal includes the following:
"Combating copyright piracy over the Internet, including actions such as takedowns of infringing content, action against persons responsible for IPR [Intellectual Property Rights] crimes, coordination with rights holders, cooperation and information exchange between IPR enforcement officials, and devotion of resources and personnel to law enforcement agencies to combat piracy over the Internet.
"Enhancing IPR Enforcement, including actions against counterfeiting, piracy, and circumventing technological protection measures; imposing deterrent penalties and sentences; conducting raids; seizing and, where appropriate, destroying IPR infringing products and the equipment and materials used to produce such products; and promoting transparency and public awareness of IPR enforcement actions.
"Coordinating on Legislation and other Issues, including on Russia's draft legislation on liability for Internet service providers to combat Internet piracy, consulting on implementation of Russia's WTO pharmaceutical test data protection commitments, administrative penalties, and exchanging information on enforcement mechanisms and best practices for judges."
This all comes merely four months after Russia finally joined the World Trade Organization. It appears Russia might be ready to get off the sidelines and become a team player in protecting intellectual property rights.
In January, the website TorrentFreak.com reported Russia had drafted a law that would be the Russian equivalent of the United States’ DMCA. The Russian version, however, is loaded with penalties the pro-filesharing crowd is decrying, albeit much to the delight of copyright holders who feel the DMCA lacks significant penalties. It remains to be seen if Russia will balance out the law with equal harsh penalties for abuse of the law.
What this can mean for copyright holders here in America is another piracy haven is being taken off the map for content thieves. Up until recently, it was common knowledge among copyright infringers that it was safe to host your piracy outfit in countries like Russia, the Ukraine and the Netherlands, but now it would seem the ground beneath the pirates is finally beginning to shrink. As nations across the world feel the global economic pinch, more and more are realizing that there’s more money to be made in supporting the arts and culture instead of exploiting it.
Takedown Piracy is an anti-piracy service started in 2009 by Nate Glass, a 13-year veteran of the adult industry. TDP offers copyright holders an affordable and effective means to fight back against content thieves. To date TDP has removed over 1.6 million content infringements, and it closely monitors 200 piracy websites. For details, visit TakedownPiracy.com.