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Europe attacks Russian music 'cheats'

Danes now, UK next

A Danish court has moved to block consumers from using AllofMP3.com, an online Russian music store accused of selling albums below their market price and cheating artists out of the royalties.

The judge in the Copenhagen City Court ordered the Swedish internet service provider Tele2 AB to block its subscribers from reaching the site, said a spokesman for the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), a record label trade group whose Copenhagen branch filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Danish recording industry.

"We will be looking with interest when the translation comes out on Monday to see if we can learn any lessons. Other groups are welcome to look at this and see if they can do it in their own territories," said Alex Jacob, an IFPI spokesman in London.

The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) may bring a similar lawsuit in the UK, and there is a criminal case pending in the Russian courts, he said. The IFPI is also affiliated with the largest US music industry trade group, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and the US is making the website an issue as Russia attempts to join the WTO (World Trade Organization).

Censorship claims

Tele2 did not reply to a request for comment, but AllofMP3.com criticised the ruling as censorship, saying it expected Tele2 to file an appeal.

"It's surprising for a court in that country to make a decision you would think is more common in a place like China. We shouldn't be in the business of censoring content," said Rory Davenport, a spokesman for Mediaservices, the website's parent company.

In a virtual press conference in October, an executive at AllofMP3.com admitted he had never paid royalties to the artists, but insisted his site was legal because those dues were being held by Roms (the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society). Artists are free to petition Roms for their money or to deny permission to sell their songs, but very few have done so, said Vadim Mamotin, director general of Mediaservices.

The international community seems wary of those claims, however. In October, the credit-card companies Visa and Mastercard announced they were refusing to process their customers' credit-card payments registered on the site. In a company blog, AllofMP3.com decried those moves as illegitimate policies enacted outside the legal process.

Still, the Danish court decision has given momentum to the music industry. "This decision eliminates any doubt that people may have about the illegality of AllofMP3.com," said Jens-Otto Paludan, chairman of IFPI Denmark and managing director of Universal Music Denmark.

His remarks were issued in a press release. "AllofMP3.com is an illegal service, which cheats artists and producers of millions of kroner every year," it read. "With this judicial decision, we can, at last, bring one of the most provoking pirate services in this country to an efficient standstill."


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