Russian authorities last week put the final nail in the coffin of AllofMP3.com, the thorn in the side of United States and UK music industry groups that have attempted to shut it down for years. But the service quickly resurfaced under the name MP3Sparks.com, with the ability to take credit cards once again.
AllofMP3 was controversial because it sold unprotected (DRM-free) songs for pennies, far cheaper than services like iTunes or Napster. Record labels claimed the site had no licenses, nor paid royalties to artists. AllofMP3 parent company, Mediaservices, claimed to pay royalties to ROMS, the copyright holder service sanctioned by the Russian Parliament, and to FAIR (Rights holders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively).
Under Russian law, as long as a distributor of music pays 15% of its collection fees to ROMS, it's a legal service. But regulators outside Russia don't agree with that assessment.
Although it remained active in the face of heavy international pressure, AllofMP3 was blocked in Denmark and Germany, and an Italian version is under investigation. In December, United States music publishers sued the company for $1.65 trillion. In addition, Russia was specifically asked to shut down the site if it wishes to join the World Trade Organization. It agreed last October, but set no specific timeframe.
The site finally going offline is not much of a surprise, however; payment companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal had already ceased doing business with Mediaservices - severely impacting its ability to operate. What is surprising is that Mediaservices has simply launched a new site, MP3Sparks, that is practically identical to AllofMP3. And now, credit card payments are being accepted.
The MP3Sparks Web site includes the same information, songs for sale, and explanations for why it is legal. "The availability over the Internet of the ALLOFMP3.com materials is authorized by the license # LS-3?-05-03 of the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS). In accordance to the licenses' terms Mediaservices pays license fees for all materials downloaded from the site," a notice reads.
It's not clear how the music industry will respond to the latest maneuver by Mediaservices, but it surely won't be happy. The RIAA in the United States and IFPI, a group representing the recording industry internationally, have pushed hard to stop its actions. Although most of its customers were Russian, AllofMP3 was believed to be the biggest music service behind iTunes in Britain.
Russia, AllofMP3, MP3Sparks, Online Music