is illegal – WE WISH… illegal says IFPI

For those of you who didn’t know, Allofmp3 is a music download site like iTunes… but that is where the similarity ends.

  • iTunes protects its products with DRM (Digital Rights Management) software that restricts what you can do with your music once you have downloaded it. AllofMP3 eschews DRM and offers a choice of formats, including MP3 and Ogg Vorbis.
  • Tunes provides one level of quality, while allofMP3 allows you to select the sound quality level to your taste, with higher quality attracting a higher cost.
  • Perhaps the biggest difference is that iTunes charges 99c per song, while AllofMP3 charges less than a third of that – two cents per megabyte of music downloaded.

They can do this because allofMP3 is based in Russia, where a loophole in the copyright law allows them to get away with paying much lower royalties than Apple, who sends on more than 70% of their proceeds to the music business, who, thanks to a little loophole of their own, pay the artists a pittance of about 4.5c per song.

Naturally this has gotten the US music business in a bit of a snit. Their industry group – the much-reviled RIAA – who has taken it to their international counterpart, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), who has declared allofMP3 “illegal” Whatever that means.

The IFPI alleges that that allofMP3 is operating illegally, allofMP3 contends that they are operating within Russian law.

Given that…

  1. It is legal to purchase music in Russia.
  2. Last time I looked there were no import restrictions preventing me from bringing music into this country from Russia or anywhere else.
  3. Previous attempts to take them down have failed.

…I am forced to the conclusion that allofMP3 is not, in fact, illegal. If they are operating within they law the IFPI cannot touch them.

That is not to say that they are obviously blameless – if they are not paying the royalties that they should be paying then they may be doing something illegal, which is a completely different kettle of bananas. The Execs at Enron may have been doing illegal stuff, but that did not make Enron an “illegal business”.

Russian companies are not inherently illegal just because American business cartels don’t like them, however much the RIAA may wish otherwise.

I love this site… not because they are cheap, but because they allow me to choose how I want my music and do not put restrictions on what I can do with my music afterwards.

Personally I consider iTunes to be too expensive – 99c/track is actually more expensive than a physical CD, quality is not as good and DRM makes it less versatile. In spite of this, the artists actually get less from downloads than from sales…

Having said that, I consider allofMP3 to be too cheap – I would consider 20c-50c per track to be reasonable. I would like to think that there are enough honest people out there who feel the same way to make it wildly profitable for the music business if they would lower their prices and eschew DRM.

The music business’ standard defence is their claim that “you cannot compete with free“, but allofMP3 has exposed the lie in that claim. They have proved that if you make it cheap and easy enough, people will buy. 20-50c/track would actually be cheap enough to make piracy uneconomical for all but the most impoverished (who weren’t going to buy anyway).

The alternative is to create an entire generation of young people who hate the music industry and keep their hands firmly in their pockets; at present, that is precisely the RIAA’s current business plan.

What is particularly galling to me is that American jobs are bring “offshored” at an alarming rate to save money… but when we, the people, offshore our music purchases for precisely the same reason, suddenly that’s bad, bad bad.

Because of the immense pressures and the huge amounts of money involved, I have no doubt that allofMP3 will eventually be shut down, but until then I will continue to use it until it can be proved to my satisfaction that it is illegal.

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