Russia piracy plank

Stormy seas for illegal download site

A Russian Web site that illegally trades in music downloads is being sued by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), among others, in an attempt to close it down.

AllofMP3.com, based in Moscow, allows consumers to download albums for as little as $1.86 and single tracks for as low as 7¢. Site is not licensed, meaning no royalties are being paid to the performers, songwriters or copyright holders of the music.

Normally, full album downloads would retail for about $9.99, individual tracks for about 99¢.

In May 2005, a German court granted an injunction against AllofMP3 because it had no right to offer music in Germany without the consent of rights holders. In October, Italian authorities shut down a related portal, Allofmp3.it, and began a criminal investigation.

Major record labels in the U.S. are attempting to make the shuttering of the Web site a condition for Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

BPI general counsel Roz Groome said, “AllofMP3.com is illegal under U.K. law, and it is illegal to download from it. We are going to sue AllofMP3.com in the U.K. courts — we are going to seek a judgment not against the users of the site but against the site itself.”

For its part, AllofMP3.com claims it can legally sell to anyone in Russia, but that users in other countries should check whether it is legal for them to download the music.

International record companies trade association IFPI countered: “Allofmp3.com is not a legal service either in Russia or anywhere else. Unlike all the legitimate sites, it does not pay artists or copyright holders, so it is effectively stealing from those who create music.”

IFPI’s statement continued: “The site claims to have a license from Roms, a Russian organization that claims to be a collecting society. Yet Roms has no rights from the record companies whatsoever to license these pieces of music.”

IFPI said two separate criminal proceedings are ongoing in Russia regarding Allofmp3. The first is against the former director of MediaServices, Allofmp3’s parent company. Moscow’s public prosecutor is trying the case now. The second case, against a current director of MediaServices, is in the investigation phase and will be closely followed by IFPI.

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