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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Court Fines Web Sites for Piracy

A Russian court has fined a company whose web sites let users download songs for 15 cents following a lawsuit brought by the Russian label of British record giant EMI, a court official said Wednesday.

In what appeared to be the first major successful anti-piracy case in Russia, the Moscow Arbitration Court ruled last week in favor of Gala Records.

The record firm sued web sites Delit.ru and Delit.net for illegally selling soundtracks and music albums online without the consent of copyright owners, court spokesman Yury Gladkov said.

The court also fined the sites' parent company, Delit, 60,000 rubles ($2,300), he said.

Olga Kim, a legal expert with Gala Records, said the company was satisfied with the decision despite having asked for 800,000 rubles ($30,000).

She said it was a victory for the court to rule "that one cannot distribute someone else's property on the Internet."

Gala Records produces albums for several well-known Russian pop artists, including Dima Bilan, who came in second at last year's Eurovision song contest.

A spokeswoman for the web sites said: "I don't understand anything that you just told me; I am not in the know," and said no other officials were available.

Despite the Moscow court ruling, both web sites appeared to be fully operational Wednesday and it was still possible to register on at least one of them.

Russia is the worst pirate market in the world after China, according to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a coalition of seven industry groups.

Moscow's failure to crack down on the violations was cited as a major impediment to an agreement with the United States -- signed in November after years of wrangling -- that paved the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organization.

Russian prosecutors are investigating several other web sites accused by major record companies of illegally selling pirated music.

One web site, Allofmp3.com, which allows users to download entire albums for as little as $1, particularly angered the United States during WTO talks, and has caused an outcry among record companies worldwide.

Lawsuits have been filed against the web site in the United States, Denmark and Britain.

Moscow-based Mediaservices, which owns Allofmp3.com, maintains that it pays 15 percent royalties on the sales in compliance with Russian law.

Igor Pozhitkov, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in Russia, said the ruling could set a precedent and lead to other similar web sites being prosecuted.

He said the web sites insisted they were not violating copyright because they possess licenses from Russian companies claiming to own rights to multiple record companies. The Moscow court ruling effectively deems such firms illegal.

"We salute the decision and hope it will have an effect on other companies, like Allofmp3," he said.