February 22, 2005 2:22 PM PST

MP3s for pennies? Russian cops say no

A Russian digital-music site offering high-quality song downloads for just pennies apiece is the target of a criminal copyright investigation by the local police, recording industry groups said Tuesday.

AllofMP3.com has been operating for several years, asking consumers to pay just 2 cents per megabyte of downloads--usually between 4 cents and 10 cents per song. Alongside the catalogue available at traditional stores like Apple Computer's iTunes, the site offered access to songs from the Beatles and other groups that haven't yet authorized digital distribution.

The Russian site claimed it had licenses to do so from a local clearing house, but record labels have maintained that the licenses weren't valid. After long-standing complaints, the Moscow City Police Computer Crimes division completed an investigation earlier this month and recommended that prosecutors charge the site's operators with criminal copyright infringement.

"We have consistently said that AllofMP3.com is not licensed to distribute our members' repertoire in Russia or anywhere else," Igor Pozhitkov, regional director of IFPI Moscow--part of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry--said in a statement. "We are pleased that the police are bringing this important case to the attention of the prosecutor."

The investigation marks a potentially substantial step forward in Russia for copyright holders. Record labels and movie studios have sometimes had difficulty persuading Russian law enforcement to deal with piracy problems.

A similar set of self-declared "legal" download sites arose in Spain, claiming to have licenses to sell music from local copyright authorities. Record labels sued both, and only one, Weblisten.com, remains online. The other, Puretunes.com, settled with the industry for $10 million.

The Russian MP3 site claimed it had full rights derived from the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society, as long as customers were planning to download the songs for personal use only. In a message posted in English, the site said it "does not keep up with the laws of different countries and is not responsible the actions of non-Russian users."

The Moscow City Prosecutor's office has until March 7 to decide whether to act on the police department's recommendation. The IFPI has also submitted its own formal complaint to the prosecutor's office.

According to the IFPI, the Russian music market is ranked No. 12 in the world, worth about $326 million in 2003. The group estimates that about 64 percent of music consumed in the country has been pirated, however.

8 comments

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Too bad, it's great stuff
As a person who didn't just buy an iPod because everybody else was gettin' one, I appreciate the **** out of AllofMP3.com's choices it gives the music lover to get the music they love in a format that isn't restricted to specific hardware or software (ahem, iTunes -- I'm looking in your direction). Hopefully the loophole which lets them sell per MB rather than per song (and wicked, WICKED cheap at that) is legit. Give me my music in the format and quality I want, dammit -- I'm smart enough to handle those choices!!!
Posted by (1 comment )
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Rip your own music
That's what I do. I got my iPod as a gift, but I wouldn't have gotten one otherwise just because everyone and their sister had one. The device is just that: a device. Not a fashion statement or a symbol of elite status or any of the other stereotypes typically associated with the iPod. To me, it plays music.

On the issue of the iTunes store, I won't touch it with a ten-foot pole. Then again, I don't listen to the kind of music they peddle, so no harm done there. I've never trusted others to give me my music, though, for one simple reason: most people haven't got a clue how to rip a decent music file. When I rip a CD that I own, I know one-hundred percent that it's going to come out exactly the way I need it to. 128kbps? Makes my ears bleed. 192kbps? Don't make me laugh. Anything less than lossless just isn't worth my time. You're also better off ripping your own CDs because then you KNOW it belongs to you and there are few to no legal strings attached.

If you turn around and "share," though, that's just not right.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
Smash & Grab
Hey, March 7th is only a couple of days from now! Wow, we better get moving and download as much as we possibly can before then! Thanks CNet!
Posted by (1 comment )
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Too bad, this service was perfect
This service was the perfect combination of freedom of choice and reasonable price. You can get whatever quality and format you want and they don't overcharge you for it.

Typically, the recording industry STILL DOESN'T GET IT. Why would I pay nearly the same price as a CD to download lower quality digital files? It's cheaper for the record companies to distribute their music digitally. I won't use any of the American MP3 services because it's cheaper for me to buy a used copy of the CD and rip it myself. Then I get the quality and format that I want for a reasonable price.

If Napster or iTunes made it convenient and cost effective for me to download digital files...by golly I would. Apparently it's still more important to the record companies to rip consumers off than it is to expand the reach of digital distribution and make it available to everyone. Idiots.
Posted by oeaton (1 comment )
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RIA lost on this one again
"The investigation marks a potentially substantial step forward in Russia for copyright holders" written in the article turns out to be completely wrong. This case was kicked out by the prosecutor and the end result was this website has gained world attention and many more customers, one of which is now me. :)
Posted by Monkeydung (23 comments )
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can you tell me more about this
I want to know more please
Posted by smooth_21 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Allofmp1.com
It's very easy to use our site - whithout your registration just choose a song or album you like, pay me through e-gold and download it! No directing links, everything is simple and convenient! Enjoy our smaller music collection!
Posted by velichk (9 comments )
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