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16 Aug, 2007 03:00

Allofmp3.com head not guilty

A Russian court has acquitted the former head of music download website allofmp3.com of violating intellectual property laws. The site has drawn international attention after it was declared a stumble bloc in Russian WTO accession talks with the U.S.

Denis Kvasov had been charged with violating intellectual property laws, and was facing a three-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $US 500,000 in damages to record companies EMI, Warner and Universal. The site was shut down in July because of the investigation. On Wednesday, a Russian court found the former boss of music download site not guilty.

Leading intellectual property experts say that under the current law allofmp3.com wasn't committing any crime.

“If we talk about the situation around the allofmp3, the current situation is that in Russia there are collective rights management societies which have the right to represent the authors who have concluded agreements with them as well as the authors who hadn't. So the authors do not even know that some society represents their interests. But in their turn these societies have to pay remunerations,” says Vladimir Birulin from Gorodissky & Partners law firm.

With allofmp3.com now closed focus is turning to other internet download sites, and experts say the case won't be the last brought against them

Allofmp3.com won the support of many music buyers by offering songs very cheaply, quickly becoming as popular as iTunes. But the site was not the only one, and the Russian internet download market is booming with many other online sellers offering music in a range of formats.

Currently, download sites are not under the control of any specific governmental agency, and their financial results are not disclosed. However, but by the end of this year this situation may be changed.

“The change will be that those collective rights management societies will have to be accredited by the state and the government obtain control over those societies,” Mr Birulin explains.

Analysts say the legal and regulatory environment governing the operations of sites such as allofmp3.com is improving as Russia standardises its intellectual property laws ahead of World Trade Organisation accession. But with the court case surrounding this site triggered in part because of American complaints raised in the course of WTO negotiations the sector can expect to remain in the spotlight.