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AllofMP3.com hires violinists to underscore plight

'We're fighting the good fight here'

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Allofmp3.com pulled out its hired violins today to woo the press with a sad song about a hard done-by web site just trying to make its way in a temporarily legal world.

An attorney and PR representative for the Russian music site claimed, during a press conference, that the world has ganged up on Allofmp3.com. The site remains legal, despite what you may read in the press, and will march on, despite Russian government officials saying they plan to shut it and similar services down.

"I see over and over again things that go into the press that kind of get some aspects of this wrong," said John Kheit (sounds like meat), an attorney with Chadbourne and Parke (sounds like will work for mysterious Russian software engineers who refuse to speak with the press because of their poor English . . .), who is representing Allofmp3.com. "In fact, it is legal to access this service from the US, and that is a pretty big deal."

The Allofmp3.com matter isn't your average suing an illiterate 12-year-old girl without a computer digital music rights squabble.

It turns out that the US has threatened to block Russia's WTO bid unless the hockey lovers really stick it to the digital entertainment pirates. And so Russian officials this month vowed to "investigate and prosecute companies that illegally distribute copyright works on the internet." That bold promise let to stories this week such as "Russia agrees to shut down Allofmp3.com."

If, however, you go to Allofmp3.com today, you'll find it very much operational.

"No one has contacted Allofmp3 saying, 'You will be shutdown' or anything like that," Kheit (sounds like feet) said.

That's because the site continues to function under the same Russian law that has always allowed it to sell the copyrighted works of others. The company simply donates 15 per cent of its profits to a "licensing society" fund, and that money then makes its way to artists, as far as anyone knows.

Allofmp3.com may have to change its ways by next June when the law surrounding its service comes under review. But, until then, the site will keep on humming away, according to Kheit.

"The reason (the RIAA and others) couldn't stop this is because it's outright legal," he said.

The service faces more immediate challenges than the law book-thumping of politicos. Visa and Mastercard have refused to facilitate payments to the site, although you can still use other credit cards and XROST prepaid iCards.

"(The credit card ban) has not had a significant impact," said Allofmp3.com spokesman Rory Davenport.

You have to like the spunk - the US kind - of Allofmp3.com parent company Mediaservices, which is looking into taking legal action against Visa and Mastercard for their "arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory" decision.

What you don't have to admire is the whining by Kheit about Allofmp3.com's portrayal in the press.

"Here is a company that is following the law, and it doesn't get a break in the press," Kheit said, and then added that "if they wanted to swindle stuff" they could.

Apparently, you're to admire Allofmp3.com for contributing to the artists' copyright fund when it could be swindling copyright holders and blowing the cash on coke or whatever Russians like these days.

"It is fighting the good fight here," Kheit (sounds like receipt) said.

It does seem that Allofmp3.com has every right to keep operating under current Russian law, and the company has agreed to change its ways if the laws mutate. We're not sure that's the good fight, but it's a fight of sorts, especially with the heavies making their WTO play.

To Kheit's almost point, Allofmp3.com looks like an angel when compared to the child-suing RIAA, but the PR niceties don't extend much beyond there. ®

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