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Random Musings
Vol.1, No. 9: Is allofmp3.com Legal?

Disclaimers: As is often the case when discussing legal issues, the following applies primarily to users in the United States who are subject to U.S. laws. As is always the case, the following does not constitute legal advice and the reader should not rely on it as such. Anyone seeking formal legal advice in regard to this, or any other issue, should consult a lawyer of his or her choice. Opinions discussed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ABXZone.com, its owner, administrators, moderators, or any other member. The author has no financial or other interest, personal or professional, beyond that of any other person with respect to the issues discussed here.

Introduction

In the ongoing wars between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and music lovers searching for bargains, the popularity of allofmp3.com and its highly economical cost of downloading music has increased dramatically. With the increase in popularity and usage, the question of allofmp3's legality has also arisen more frequently. The issue of the legality of allofmp3 has also increased because of the litigation surrounding P2P file sharing. Last summer, the United States Supreme Court held that providers of P2P software could be held civilly liable under specific circumstances for infringement of copyright protections. For summaries of the issues involved in that litigation and its result see here and here. The Supreme Court decision has provided new impetus to RIAA's efforts to gain compensation from providers and users of P2P, resulting in many users seeking safer havens, such as allofmp3.

Of course, the issue is not whether allofmp3 is legal, but whether downloading and copying music and other files from that source is legal for the individual user. The answer to the former question is yes, allofmp3 is legal, at least in the locality (Russia), where it exists. The answer to the more important question is unfortunately no. For users in the United States downloading files from allofmp3 is not legal and is a violation of United States copyright laws. The reasoning of those who assert that downloading from allofmp3 is legal ignores basic copyright law and often appears to be nothing more than manipulating the issues involved to arrive at the desired answer. For those seeking cheap alternatives to illegal downloading via P2P and other sources, allofmp3 is an attractive possibility. It is not, however, one that falls within legal boundaries. This conclusion results from what the law says and is sure to be a disappointment to many who have perhaps believed that they act legally when downloading from allofmp3. As the bearer of this bad news, I can only hope that readers will refrain from shooting the messenger.

MP3

What is allofmp3 and is it legal?

allofmp3.com is a Russian service operating under the laws of Russia. The service differs from most in that it offers downloads based on how many Mb's are downloaded rather than on the number of songs, albums, etc., common with other sites. Currently, the cost for U.S. customers is $0.02/Mb, which translates to roughly $0.10/song or $1.50/album. Users deposit money to their account and add to it as charges are made. Payments may be made by credit card or electronic services such as PayPal. User comments indicate that allofmp3 is a reliable service and the quality of downloads is excellent.

The United States and Russia are at opposite extremes in the area of copyright law. The United States takes a very strict approach to copyright infringement and is among the most strict in the world. Russian copyright law is among the least strict. This allows allofmp3 to operate successfully.

The Russian Organization for Multimedia & Digital Systems (ROMS) is somewhat equivalent to RIAA and allofmp3 has a licensing agreement with ROMS and pays fees to ROMS. Russian authorities have investigated allofmp3 and have declined to take legal action, supporting the assertion that allofmp3 operates legally in Russia. Nonetheless, allofmp3 itself cautions users: “The user bears sole responsibility for any use and distribution of all materials received from AllOFMP3.com. This responsibility is dependent on the national legislation in each user's country of residence. The Administration of AllOFMP3.com does not possess information on the laws of each particular country and is not responsible for the actions of foreign users.”

Thus, allofmp3 is legal in the sense that it operates within the limits of Russian law. That does not answer the question of whether it is legal for users in the United States to download music from allofmp3. Before discussing why the answer to this question is no, let us consider some of the arguments used to conclude that the answer is yes.