A few years ago the hugely popular AllofMP3.com, a Moscow-based service that undercut iTunes by enormous margins, was the bane of the major record labels. Not only did they undercut iTunes by massive margins, but you could also buy the entire Beatles catalog for about a buck an album. As a result, AllofMP3 became the second largest music service in the UK with a 14% market share, making record executives absolutely apoplectic.
The website, run by MediaServices Inc, claimed that everything was licensed by the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS) and the Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively (FAIR). MediaServices said that it paid license fees “subject to the Law of the Russian Federation”.
At the time it was suggested that the service fell through a loophole in Russian law; that public performances of recorded music do not require the authority of copyright holders; that the website paid ROMS and ROMS compensated the artists; and that AllofMP3 operated within a grey area of the law.
The IFPI said that ROMS may be a collection society, but not only wasn’t it paying the artists, it wasn’t even licensed by the labels to collect anything for them at all.
Whatever the situation was, the IFPI had a hell of a time trying to get Putin & Co.to shut the site down. Eventually they were able to put enough pressure on the credit card companies to persuade them to no longer honor transactions from MediaServices.
Score: IFPI, 1; Russians, nil. But that was 2006-2007.
So I’m sitting at my desk last week and I get an email that was evidently meant for someone else. A misfire. It was a customer support email from something called Soundsbox.com. I clicked through and discovered that I could buy any one of over 5 million tracks for $.14 each, including the entire Beatles re-masters ($1.76 per album).
I poked around on the web site, which is sparse on details, and found that – you guessed it—we’re back in the USSR. A brand new music download service direct from Red Square. And fully licensed by ROMS!
According to the Soundsbox website, “The availability over the Internet of the SoundsBox.com materials is authorized by the license # 49/ZM-07 of the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS). In accordance to the licenses’ terms SoundsBox pays license fees for all materials downloaded from the site subject to the Law of the Russian Federation “On Copyright and Related Rights”.
All these materials are solely for personal use. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting are prohibited. The works available from SoundsBox.com are protected by the Law of the Russian Federation “On Copyright and Related Rights” and are for personal use of a buyer. Commercial use of such material is prohibited. Recording, copying, distribution on any media is possible only upon special consent of a Rightsholder.”
Being the nosy sleuth that I am, I looked up the domain in the Whois database and discovered that the domain was registered through a Vienna company to one Pedro Kresker of Luxembourg. I called and emailed Mr. Kresker to see if I could find out more about Soundsbox, but my email wasn’t returned and the phone number listed in Whois turned out to be a fax line.
Sounds pretty shady, huh?
I don’t know if the IFPI is aware of Soundsbox. But I’m sure they’ll find out about them quickly now. And this time around they just might get a little more cooperation from the Russian government. Or maybe not. Who knows. There’s a lot of political pressure these days for government intervention to stop online piracy.
One thing is for sure, tomorrow morning the IFPI lawyers will be on the phone to Visa and MasterCard, and not to discuss their account balances.
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