Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The end of allofmp3.com?

Allofmp3.com, the Russian download site that's more popular than Napster, has mysteriously gone offline.

Just a couple of days ago, The Register reported that the service was more popular than any of its rivals, with the exception of iTunes. In April, it accounted for 14% of all downloads in the UK.

The site has succeeded for two main reasons. One, it allows users to download music in any format they want, for any music playing device they want, without copy protection. (They use poikosoft's rather wonderful Easy CD-DA Extractor, to achieve this).

Secondly, it's cheap. Unvelievably cheap. Their price for the current UK number one, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, is a measly eight cents.

Many people think the site must be illegal. It's not - it exists in a kind of grey area of copyright law. In Russia, transferring files between computers is considered broadcasting, and this doesn't require permission from the copyright holders. As I understand it, allofmp3 can't be charged with piracy because they're not making and selling physical copies of CDs.

Of course, the music industry isn't in favour of this, and has petitioned the Russian Government for a change in the law. So perhaps it isn't a surprise that around the same time as the firm was being touted as a potential rival to Apple, its website went offline. Over the weekend, a holding page stated the site was down for routine maintenance. Today, it's back online - but downloads are unavailable.

File-sharing website, Slyck.com spoke to a representative of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), who said:
"As far as we know the site is genuinely down for repair... Russian authorities had ordered the seizure of some of the site’s servers a couple of weeks ago, but it switched to new servers and the service carried on."

But while this might just be a small hiccup, Russia is undoubtedly under pressure to change its copyright laws. In his recent state of the nation address, Vladimir Putin said:
"Reliable protection of intellectual property rights remains an essential condition for developing new technology. We must guarantee the protection of copyright within our country — this is also our duty to our foreign partners."

Personally, I hope that Russia holds out. I've downloaded a lot of new music using allofmp3 that I would never otherwise have auditioned. Plus, using the site doesn't stop me buying music legally - my itunes bill for the last twelve months is over £70, and my local branch of Fopp recently offered me a stake in the shop (or maybe it was a steak in the shop, I couldn't be sure).

But, judging by the way things are going, if you've got any credit remaining at allofmp3, it might be a good idea to spend it soon!

  • The Register for download figures and additional background
  • Slyck.com for IFPI quotes
  • Mosnews.com for the text of Vladimir Putin's speech
  • Museekster's allofmp3 FAQ
  • Also see Newspeak for alternatives to allofmp3

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