British record companies to sue Russian MP3 site

The British music industry is suing digital music download site AllofMP3.com.

The British recording industry filed a lawsuit against AllofMP3.com, seeking a ruling that is unlikely to be enforceable but joining other similar legal action across Europe.

The UK High Court said it will hear the suit even though AllofMP3.com is based in Russia, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said on Monday.

BPI hopes to prove that the Web site is illegal. The group says that AllofMP3 is selling music to UK customers without the permission of copyright owners. The fact that the court accepted the case means that it is convinced that the case is at least arguable, said Larry Cohen, a partner with the law firm McDermott, Will and Emery UK.

AllofMP3.com sells music downloads at prices that are far under industry standards. The site's terms of use section says that it is authorized to sell the music through licensing agreements with the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society and the Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively.

In statements made to the UK House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport in early June, the BPI said that neither artists nor record companies are receiving payment from AllofMP3 for the sale of their recordings.

At the time, BPI also said that it would sue AllofMP3 in the UK courts but that it wouldn't take action against users of the Web site.

The suit reflects the borderless nature of the Internet and the difficulties that individual governments have in enforcing local laws against companies that conduct business online. Even if the UK court rules against AllofMP3, it will have difficulty forcing the site to pay damages or shut down because it is based in Russia, beyond the jurisdiction of a UK court, Cohen said.

Groups like the BPI across Europe and the world may hope that their combined legal action might encourage Russian authorities to take action against the site. "Russia wants to become part of the WTO (World Trade Organization). If Russia allows this [site to continue operating], it becomes difficult for the West to admit them," Cohen noted.

The UK indeed isn't alone in its legal activity against AllofMP3.com. Several other law suits against the site are under way, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a group that fights music piracy on behalf of the music industry worldwide. A German court has issued a preliminary injunction against the site and authorities in Italy have launched a criminal investigation into the local portal, AllofMP3.it. Two other criminal proceedings in Russia are also under way.

BPI and IFPI are among record industry groups around the world that have launched attacks against illegal music sharing in an effort to protect revenues for record companies and artists.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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