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The former owner of buccaneering music download site AllofMP3.com was cleared of copyright violation charges by a court in Moscow yesterday.

Denis Kvasov was boss of Media Services, the company behind AllofMP3.com and other Russian music sites, between 2003 and 2005. A guilty verdict could have meant three years jail and €420,000 in damages payable to the major record labels.

According to Interfax, judge Yekaterina Sharapova criticised prosecutors in her verdict. She said: "This is an unusual case, and prosecutors have to be careful in collecting evidence in connection with intellectual rights violations.

"I want to draw particular attention to the sloppy job done by prosecutors in collecting and analyzing the facts."

Igor Pozhitkov, director of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Russia, said he was "very disappointed" with the outcome. Media Services has alway claimed legality through payments to Russian collection society ROMS. The IFPI says ROMS does not represent the record industry's rights in Russia and does not send them any royalties.

AllofMP3.com was finally shut down by authorities in July after an international lobbying campaign which the US said threatened Russia entry to the World Trade Organisation. New laws which come into effect at the beginning of next year are designed to close loopholes in Russian intellectual propety law.

For now, Media Services' cut-price downloads are still accessible via MP3sparks.com, however.

According to the Moscow Times ROMS chief Oleg Nezus said a 2004 decision means AllofMP3.com was always legal and may resume sales. He said: "No court has overruled the Moscow Arbitration Court decision, and as long as it stands, AllofMP3.com is legal in Russia. Our opponents lack legal arguments for the closure of the web site."

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