Music labels win fight to close Russian download site

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The Independent Online

The BPI, the trade body for UK record labels, yesterday urged "true music fans" to shun "parasitic" websites that allow users to illegally download music after the site allofMP3.com was shut down following a two-year campaign by the music industry.

The Russian-based music site had beenpopular with listeners looking for cheaper ways to download music. It attracted 5.5 million users and was second only to Apple's iTunes download service in the number of UK downloads after offering songs at a price 10 times cheaper than its more established rivals.

However, the BPI has been battling for two years to shut the site, arguing that despite the consumer perception that it was offering cheap authorised music downloads, the reality was that the music was offered illegally.

Reports emanating from Russia have claimed the site, owned by the Russian company MediaServices, was closed last week. The site was no longer accessible on internet browsers yesterday, though it could, in theory, be resurrected.

A source said: "It is perhaps too early to say the site is dead - it has gone down before. However, it looks like it has closed for good this time."

Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of the BPI, said the reported closure of the site represented an important step in directing consumers away from illegal services.

"We will continue to take firm action against any website that defrauds consumers by claiming to be legal while selling stolen music without permission," he said.

"We would appeal to UK music fans to stay away from these illegal Russian sites, which are unlicensed parasites that make no investment in music and do not pay royalties to the artists concerned. True music fans should not support them."

AllofMP3.com has come under increasing pressure from the Russian authorities after trade officials claimed the site's activities could act as a potential barrier to Russia's entry to the World Trade Organisation.

Campaigners against allofMP3.com have used economic sanctions. The site's traffic has waned since January when Visa and Mastercard stopped processing payments made via the site.

MediaServices has consistently argued that it is offering music to download legally as it paid royalties to a Russian copyright collection agency, a claim rejected by the music industry's trade bodies. The company has reportedly set up a new site, but has not stipulated how the new service differs from allofMP3.com.

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