Tuesday, June 06, 2006

BPI CONFUSE THEIR OPINION WITH LEGAL FACT

Now that figures have started to show just how popular AllofMP3 is in the UK, the BPI has started to launch an all-out attack on the service:

BPI spokesman Matt Phillips said: "There is no doubt it is totally illegal.

"It is illegal for them to sell the recordings in Russia or anywhere else because they are not licensed, and UK consumers are infringing copyright law because they are making illegal copies from an unlicensed source."

He added: "Because it is a professionally put together site it does look legitimate, although it should be obvious from the price that it isn't."


But if we should assume that any site offering downloads for small sums is illegal, does that mean Napster's freebies are beyond the law? And Tesco is offering a single for 20pence at the moment - should we alert the old bill?

The trouble is, the BPI's statements might not be entirely true. Allofmp3 has been operating in a grey area. It might be totally illegal. On the other hand, it might not be. There's two big questions that need to be settled:

First, is the company properly licensed to operate in Russia?

The site says it is, through the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems; the IFPI says this doesn't count. Again, the IFPI are stating this to be a fact, when, again, that's as yet an untested opinion.

Secondly, are people in the UK breaking the law downloading their music from a Russian server?

Let's assume for a moment that - to the frustration of the IFPI - AllofMP3 is a legal service in its home country. It's far from clear that the BPI or any body at all has any grounds to stop British consumers from choosing to source their digital recordings from Moscow rather than Morecambe, if the Russians are happy to supply them. However upsetting that might be for them.

We can understand that the BPI might want to frighten people from using the service. But they should be honest, and start their statements with "As far as we're concerned..."

The other option, of course, would be to study why Allofmp3 is so popular, and think about why DRM-free, competitively priced music is attractive.


4 comments:

eyetie said...

According to the Russian authorities, the site is legit. No PirateBay-style raids for them...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4328269.stm

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting issue. I've been using a similar site of late:
http://www.legalsounds.com/

I have a non-iPod MP3 player, which, as far as I'm aware, can't be used on iTunes. And I'd prefer a pay-as-you-go system to the Napster monthly subscription commitment, in which the music disappears if you stop subscribing.

In the past, I've used the Oxfam music download site, but it insists that users have a British credit card. I live in Japan, so it's more convenient for me to use my Japanese credit card, but if a legit download site with DRM doesn't want to know (and as I haven't been able to find any Japanese music download sites), then what's a user to do? If a site tells you it's legal and gives you details of the legislation under which it's licensed, it seems reasonable to trust it.

There have been times in the past when I've replaced albums I've had on tape with the same albums on CD. In addition, I've bought compilation CDs which contain songs that I already have on single-artist CDs. Moreover, I've lost count of the number of times that I've bought CDs on the strength of a couple of tracks only to be disappointed by the rest of the album. Furthermore, I've bought countless blank tapes and MDs here in Japan, and the Japanese record industry already imposes a levy on those to compensate for lost sales. So I figure that the record industry associations actually owe me more than I owe them.

Eleanor G

mitya said...

Although I appreciate your crusade, my guess is that you've got the wrong end of the stick on this one. In the late 90s, Ukraine had at least a half-dozen "licensed" CD plants that would happily print Beatles or Led Zeppelin discs.

Even if AllofMP3 is "not illegal" in Russia, that's not the question. The question is whether one cent (or ruble) of the price of downloads there go to the performer, songwriter, or label. I would confidently wager "no." In which case, I hardly think this particular case is one I'd want to support.

simon h b said...

Mitya,

I take your point, but there's a couple of wider issues here.

Yes, it's unlikely that any of the cash from allofmp3 goes to the singer or the songwriter, but that's slightly besides the point here.

Allofmp3 hasn't yet been proven to be illegal in Russia, and yet the BPI and IFPI are insisting that it is; it's far from clear that British people downloading their tracks from Russia are breaking the law, but the BPI are insisting they are. If you read the legal opinion the BPI are basing their statements on, it's actually slightly cagey.

Secondly, there's the issue of UK crime: why shouldn't people in the UK be free to download their music from a Russian (or American, or Togoan) server (assuming that that server is operating legally in its home state). Clearly, it'd be inconvenient for the record industry, who'd be forced to stop ripping off British consumers by overcharging for music in the UK. But just because something is inconvenient for a private company isn't a good excuse for it being illegal.

Third: there's a question of why allofmp3 is second only to iTunes in the UK. Price, yes, might be a factor - and even if we assume that allofmp3 is above board, the prices they charge are probably as unfairly skewed in favour of the downloader as the prices on iTunes are unfairly skewed in favour of the labels. But I don't think it's price alone - after all, Napster and Yahoo's subscription services are pretty bloody cheap.

But allofmp3 lets you own your music, and places no restrictions on what you do with it once you've paid. Rather than engaging in frutiless battles trying to close down ghost companies in the former Soviet Union, the music industry should take this as a useful piece of market research, and set about designing a download service that delivers what people want, not what they're prepared to let us have.

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