AllofMP3.com was perhaps the only online music store where hardcore members of the file-sharing community would spend money - other than newsgroup access. For a few cents per track, customers could download songs from a catalog of millions without any type of DRM (Digital Rights Management). Additionally, AllofMP3.com offered alternative file types such as OGG, FLAC, WMA, and AAC. AllofMP3.com claimed this was legal, as a portion of their income went to the Russian royalty collection agency ROMs. The music industry claimed otherwise.
This began a lineage of assaults on AllofMP3.com which slowly chipped away at this Russian music store. The key word is “slowly” as it took nearly three years to wind up where we are today - the final closure of AllofMP3.com.
The IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) tried to convince Russian prosecutors to pursue AllofMP3’s parent company, Media Services, in 2005 with little success. At the time, Russia’s copyright laws were antiquated as to not even address digital infringement. Because of this, the IFPI was told they â€œdonâ€™t have much chance of succeedingâ€ if they attacked the Russian digital music retailer. Charges were eventually dropped against Media Services.
While AllofMP3.com was able to skirt around the IFPI’s legal pursuit, it couldn’t hide from the Office of the US Trade Representative. In its annual report, the USTR singled out AllofMP3.com as a serious problem in Russia.
“Despite some improvements in IPR enforcement this year, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the continued increase in optical disc pirate production in Russian plants and the growth of Internet piracy on Russian websites such as www.allofmp3.com.”
The importance of the USTR’s report weighed heavily on the Russian Federationâ€™s accession into the World Trade Organization. A country with a favorable reputation on copyright enforcement would more likely become a member of the WTO than one that does not. And the Russian Federation, with its booming energy economy, wants few other things than to be a member of the WTO. Even if it means shutting down a site that may or may not be legal.
With the USTR standing against AllofMP3.com, the IFPI struck again. In October of 2006, the IFPI lobbied credit card companies Visa and MasterCard to reject payments to AllofMP3.com. The tactic worked, as AllofMP3.com’s customers lost their mainstream method to purchase music.
“IFPI drew to Visa’s attention the fact that allofmp3.com was not licensed by its members,” an IFPI spokesman told Ars Technica. “Visa has a policy position of not supporting such sites and had its facilities removed accordingly. In fact, the facility was removed in early September.”
With a convenient method of payment stripped away, AllofMP3.com’s situation deteriorated. The RIAA sued AllofMP3.com in December of 2006 for $150,000 per violation. The RIAA pointed out there were 11 million songs offered - which would equate to a 1.65 trillion dollar lawsuit.
“AllofMP3 understands that several U.S. record label companies filed a lawsuit against Media Services in New York,” an unnamed AllofMP3.com “senior company official” stated. “This suit is unjustified as AllofMP3 does not operate in New York. Certainly the labels are free to file any suit they wish, despite knowing full well that AllofMP3 operates legally in Russia. In the mean time, AllofMP3 plans to continue to operate legally and comply with all Russian laws.”
One constant through the latter part of 2006 was that AllofMP3.com was quick to respond to the IFPI’s or RIAA’s legal wranglings. Things went noticeably quiet in 2007, as time appears to have taken its toll on AllofMP3.com. According to Times Online in the United Kingdom, an ex-employee of AllofMP3.com stated that the Russia government has finally shut down AllofMP3.com.
The Russian government offered no official word on AllofMP3’s demise, according to The Moscow Times. Slyck’s inquiries to Media Services and their American based legal consul have gone unanswered. Media Service’s American based public relations firm Qorvis no longer has a working relationship with the company.
Interestingly enough, Media Services has started a near identical service call Mp3Sparks.com. A noticable difference is in price, as tracks sell between 20 and 30 cents each. However like AllofMP3.com, this site claims to be legal under Russian law.
“The availability over the Internet of the Mp3Sparks.com materials is authorized by the license 31/ZM-07 of the noncommercial partnership Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively (NP FAIR).”
If AllofMP3 is truly dead, it’s the end of an online icon. AllofMP3.com was more popular than iTunes in many markets, and showed that for the right price and file compatibly, people were willing to buy music online.