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'User-generated content' Policy changes from Russian streaming services quietly give listeners access to the latest Western hits
New albums from Western artists that haven’t been added to Russian streaming services’ official libraries due to their labels’ exit from the Russian market have nonetheless been appearing on the services.
The outlets RBC, Sobaka, and Rozetked have all noted that popular albums such as Midnights by Taylor Swift, Zeit by Rammstein, Return of the Dream Canteen by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar, The Car by Arctic Monkeys, Renaissance by Beyonce, and Harry’s House by Harry Styles can all be found on the Russian streaming service Zvuk.
Some of the albums are also available on the desktop version of the Russian social network VKontakte, though they’re not accessible on the company’s official music app.
According to RBC, the majority of new songs by Western artists that are accessible on Zvuk are labeled “user-generated content.”
In the past, Russian streaming services have not allowed users to upload music themselves — and on services that did allow them to, such as Yandex.Music, the user-generated content was only accessible to the user that uploaded it.
Now, however, at least on Zvuk, all user-generated content is available to all users. Nonetheless, an employee from the service’s technical support team told Rozetked that music is listed on the service “in agreement with copyright holders.” VKontakte’s press service declined to comment.
Yandex.Music is currently testing giving users the ability to access all user-generated content, but according to Kommersant, the function will only apply to original music made by users themselves.
Lawyer Stanislav Danilov told RBC that allowing users to listen to or download audio without the permission of copyright holders is illegal and punishable by a fine of up to 5 million rubles (nearly $80,000) for each offense in Russia. But in this case, he said, the problem is “not with the law but with the realisticness and effectiveness of its application.”
It’s unlikely that Universal will find it politically and commercially acceptable to go to a Russian court to seek financial compensation from the offenders. It’s unclear how this money could even be paid to Universal and how the company would explain to its bank and its other partners why it was receiving money from Russia.
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