The Recording Industry Association of America sent a notice to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative this week, calling unlicensed music-sharing at foreign social networking sites and cyberlockers a "cynical ploy" to take money out of artists' pockets and line their own.
Named in the organization's missive was MegaUpload, owned by the famously eccentric millionaire Kim Schmitz. The other two targets were China's SoGou MP3 service and Russian social networking site VKontakte.
VKontakte caters to 120 million users, said the RIAA. Coupled with its more benign offerings are music and video file-sharing capabilities:
[VKontakte is] specifically designed to enable members to upload music and video files, hundreds of thousands of which contain unlicensed copyright works. Its dedicated content search engine enables other members to search and instantly stream unlicensed music and movies, giving VKontakte an unfair competitive edge over other social networks that do not offer free access to unlicensed material.
A quick glimpse at VKontakte reveals a Facebook copycat that offers "an all-purpose tool for communication and finding friends." Unlike Facebook, joining requires an invite from a member. The site is currently ranked the 44th most popular site in the world by website tracker Alexa.
According to the U.S. trade group, the offshoot site SoGou MP3 is "actively involved in the manipulation of its database of unlicensed music" and promotes various American artists' work.
"What's particularly offensive about some of these companies is that they intentionally launch music services without any form of licensing as a cynical ploy to gain market share and make more money on the back of artists, labels, songwriters and everyone else involved in the music community," said Neil Turkewitz, RIAA executive vice president.
It's unclear what - if any - action the USTR will take to address the RIAA's report on "notorious markets" around the globe.
A new proposal by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) this week dubbed the "Stop Online Piracy Act" seeks to increase the United States' ability to deal with foreign rogue sites. RIAA CEO Cary Sherman called the bill "a first step towards a brighter day."