Russian police probe cheap downloads site

Music biz aims to throttle Allofmp3.com

Authorities in Moscow are investigating a Russian website offering cheap music downloads. Allofmp3.com is accused by a music industry group of offering music for sale without authorisation from rights holders in Russia and internationally.

Moscow prosecutors are considering whether to proceed with a criminal case against Allofmp3.com after Moscow City Police turned over results of a preliminary investigation on 8 February. In a move calculated to add extra pressure, the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said Tuesday that it had submitted a formal complaint to the prosecutor’s office on behalf of its members alleging "large-scale copyright infringement". Moscow City Prosecutor’s office has until 10 March to decide whether to proceed with a criminal prosecution.

Allofmp3.com offers music in the popular MP3 format without copyright protection at prices of around 5c per track compared to the 99c charged by most online music stores. The Russian site charges by the megabyte, offering 1MB of downloads for just one cent. Allofmp3.com claims to be legal, having licensed its content from the Russian Organisation for Multimedia and Digital Systems, an organisation that represents songwriters. It claims a loophole in Russian law means it doesn't have to pay artists and labels, a contention disputed by representatives of the music industry.

Igor Pozhitkov, Regional Director, IFPI Moscow said: "We have consistently said that Allofmp3.com is not licensed to distribute our members’ repertoire in Russia or anywhere else. We are pleased that the police are bringing this important case to the attention of the prosecutor. We very much hope and expect that the prosecutor will proceed with this case, which involves the sale and digital distribution of copyrighted music without the consent or authorisation of the rights holders."

All fine sabre-rattling stuff but somewhat undermined by IFPI’s previous pronouncements that a prosecution against Allofmp3.com had little chance of success. Russia, with a 64 per cent piracy rate, is one of IFPI’s top ten priority markets targeted in the fight against commercial piracy. ®

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