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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2007, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Russian music site to 'relaunch'
Logo of allofmp3.com
US firms had sought damages from the Russian-based site
The contentious Russian music download site allofmp3.com looks set to relaunch after a Moscow court ruled its former head had not broken copyright laws.

A statement on the website, shut down in July, said the service would resume "in the foreseeable future".

Before it closed, the cut-price music site claimed to be the second biggest seller of downloads after iTunes.

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

A representative of the music industry said if it started trading again it would still be in "clear violation of copyright laws".

No response

The most recent case involving the service was a criminal prosecution against Denis Kvasov, head of Mediaservices, the owner of the website.

He was tried for intellectual property infringement after record labels put pressure on Russian prosecutors to bring the case to court.

If it were to resume trading as it was before, it would be in clear violation of copyright laws both within and outside Russia
Tim Smith, IFPI

But the court ruled that Mr Kvasov operated within Russian law.

"The prosecution did not succeed in presenting persuasive evidence of his involvement in infringing copyright law," said District Judge Yekaterina Sharapova.

During the trial, Mr Kvasov successfully argued that although the site had paid no music industry royalties, it had paid 15% of its profit to a local organisation, the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (Roms) in accordance with Russian law.

"We pay royalties to those who sign up with us and ask for them. But none of the majors, among them I mean labels like EMI and Universal, want their money," Oleg Nezus of Roms told Reuters.

"I've been sending them letters since November of 2005, stating there's a dividend. The labels don't respond."

Questionable status

Although, the prosecutors in the case are expected to make an appeal against Mr Kvasov, the site looks set to relaunch.

mp3sparks.com screen grab
Mediaservices launched mp3sparks.com after the closure

A statement on the site, dated 31 August, said: "The service will be resumed in the foreseeable future. We are doing our best at the moment to ensure that all our users can use their accounts, top up balance and order music."

But Tim Smith legal expert at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI) said "The failure of the court to convict Denis Kvasov yet has no impact whatsoever on the legality of Allofmp3 itself.

"If it were to resume trading as it was before, it would be in clear violation of copyright laws both within and outside Russia by reproducing and making available music it has no right to sell."

Members of the IFPI are currently suing the site in both the UK and the US.

Stark warning

Allofmp3.com was closed in early July ahead of a summit between the Russian and American presidents.

The closure was the result of increasing pressure from both industry and governments.

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.

However, within days of the site being shut down MediaServices opened a new service called mp3Sparks.com where allofmp3 credit could be used to purchase music.

A warning on Mp3Sparks.com reads: "You should not download audio files from Mp3Sparks.com if the terms are in conflict with the laws of your country of residence.

"Mp3Sparks.com does not attempt to control the actions of its users, who bear sole responsibility for any illegal use."

Allofmp3.com is not currently selling music.

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