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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Russian download site shut down
A cd being loaded into a computer
The US claimed royalties were not being paid for the music
The controversial Russian music download site allofmp3.com has closed.

The service, which sold songs at a fraction of the cost of other sites, claimed to be the second biggest seller of music downloads after iTunes.

It was the subject of countless lawsuits from UK and US record labels that claimed it violated copyright law.

The site's owners, MediaServices, maintained the site was legal under Russian law and has subsequently set up a new service called mp3Sparks.com.

The closure of the original site has been welcomed by the record industry.

"Allofmp3.com violated copyright law in Russia and internationally by ripping off artists and creators, taking music that it had no right to reproduce and selling it worldwide," said John Kennedy, president of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI).

"If this is the end of allofmp3.com, this is good news."

Legal position

The Russian government has come under fierce criticism over its apparent lack of action against allofmp3.com

During talks on Russian membership of the World Trade Organisation in 2006, Susan Schwab, the US Trade Representative, said that the site must be closed before entry.

The fact that closing down allofmp3.com simply resulted in the opening of a copy cat site by the same company shows that this requires some more fundamental action by the Russian authorities
Mark Mulligan, JupiterResearch

Numerous lawsuits were also started against the site's owners MediaServices.

In 2006, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Arista Records, Warner Bros, Capitol and UMG recordings.

The record labels said the company was selling songs without permission.

Allofmp3.com maintained it paid royalties to a Russian licensing body and said that it made clear on its website that users should check copyright laws in their own country before using the site.

Similar suits had also been filed by the British Phonographic Industry, on behalf of UK record labels.

Under increased pressure, Moscow finally signed an agreement in October last year to shut down the site.

It is not clear whether its closure is the result of action by Russian authorities.

Copy cats

Users of the site have been unable to log on for the last week, although the Russian version, allofmp3.ru, loads but "is undergoing maintenance".

MediaServices has also launched a new website that seems to offer a very similar service.

Like allofmp3.com, mp3sparks.com warns customers to obey their own government's laws on downloading. It also claims that it is authorised to distribute music and pays license fees.

Mark Mulligan, an analyst at JupiterResearch, wrote on his blog: "The fact that closing down allofmp3.com simply resulted in the opening of a copy cat site by the same company shows that this requires some more fundamental action by the Russian authorities.

"However, it could also be interpreted as cosmetic action by a government that is intent on satisfying WTO accession requirements but less keen on changing Russian new media copyright practices."

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