The Undead

Like Cool Hand Luke rising from the ground each time Dragline knocked him on his ass or like the living dead from the George Romero movies, Allofmp3.com refuses to submit, popping up after each execution with an amnesiac’s disregard for its back story. See None of MP3.com, AllofMP3.com Lives Yet, and AllofMP3.com–Is That All You’ve Got? This story reports that Russia caused the site to be shut down “to end criticism from the United States that Russia was failing to clamp down on music and video piracy.” By the time the press ran the story Media Services, the company behind AllofMP3.com, had opened a new site named mp3Sparks.com that it claims is legal under Russian law. Since the arguments for the new site’s legality echo those used to support Allofmp3.com we can expect this saga to continue. Frustrating, I’m sure, for parties on both sides of the issues but a boon to a professor of Internet law, this story captures the nailing-a-blob-of-mercury nature of cross-border Internet regulation.

AllofMP3.com–Is That All You’ve Got?

Last week the RIAA sued Russian music-sharing site AllofMP3.com (prior post here). AllofMP3.com is unimpressed: “AllofMP3 understands that several U.S. record label companies filed a lawsuit against Media Services in New York . . . This suit is unjustified as AllofMP3 does not operate in New York. Certainly the labels are free to file any suit they wish, despite knowing full well that AllofMP3 operates legally in Russia. In the mean time, AllofMP3 plans to continue to operate legally and comply with all Russian laws.” A wild card in AllofMP3.com’s future is whether the Russian government will effectively implement its agreement with the U.S. to shut down the site.

AllofMP3.com Lives Yet

Despite a US-Russian trade agreement in which Russia agreed to close legal-in-its-own mind AllofMP3.com (see prior post), the pesky Russian site continues to operate, bearing an enthusiastic “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” and running a Christmas sale. Apparently tired by the trade agreement’s failure to eliminate the site, the New York Times reported today that various recording companies filed a federal court lawsuit in Manhattan seeking an injunction to force AllofMP3.com’s closure. The lawsuit argues that the site’s “claims of legitimacy” make it more problematic than unabashedly illicit sites. AllofMP3.com states it sells music pursuant to legitimate Russian licenses, but ROMS, the Russian licensing site on which AllofMP3.com pins its copyright virtue, was expelled from an international royalty-collection association “for issuing licenses without authorization from copyright holders.”

None Of MP3.com

Russian music-sharing site AllofMP3.com gathered considerable attention in recent years, much of it accompanied by rose-tinted and dubious analysis of its legality. AllofMP3.com offered CD-quality music tracks for sale and download at low prices, e.g. $1.50 or less per album. AllofMP3.com claimed its service was protected by licenses from the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society. The scope of those licenses and whether they authorized AllofMP3.com to distribute licensed content everywhere in the world, were murky, (1) but the site’s supporters claimed (among other things) that because “the authority concerning intellectual property stems from individual countries” one in the U.S. who downloaded files from a Russian site was covered by Russian, not U.S., copyright laws. (2) This is certainly a novel interpretation of state sovereignty. The same argument would support the legality of downloading, say, child pornography in the U.S. from a country where it was legal to do so, because the authority concerning legality of child pornography also stems from individual countries.

In any event, AllofMP3.com has entered the ranks of ex-Internet music-download sites. Techcrunch reported (sourced from a document from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative posted on Digg) that Russia agreed to shut AllofMP3.com and other sites that “permit illegal distribution of music and other copyright works.” Under the heading Fighting Internet Piracy the document summarizes the U.S. – Russia agreement as follows:

  • The United States and Russia agreed on the objective of shutting down websites that permit illegal distribution of music and other copyright works. The agreement names the Russia-based website allofmp3.com as an example of such a website.
  • Russia will:
    • take enforcement actions against the operation of Russia-based websites; and
    • investigate and prosecute companies that illegally distribute copyright works on the Internet.
  • Russia will work to enact legislation by June 1, 2007, to stop collecting societies from acting without right holder consent,
  • Russia will also work to enact legislation implementing the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties.

The document summarizes other Russian enforcement activities including those focused on optical disc piracy, pharmaceutical test data, criminal activities, and border enforcement
(1) Is allofmp3.com legal?, Tech Law Advisor, 28-Apr-04; (2) AllOFMP# is Legal – And Cheap to Boot, FADMINE
Russia Agrees To US Request To Shut Down AllofMP3.com
, Techcrunch 28-Nov-06