Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Apple, Microsoft, Some Random Russian Company

So, now there's all these stories about Microsoft entering the business of online music. Will it be better or worse than Apple? I can't say I'm happy with Apple. The songs are overpriced, and I personally can't burn my songs anymore -- somewhere in one of the upgrades it lost my key. I contacted support, but they ignored me. I admit I haven't tried very hard, but I can't help but feel that they've stolen something from me. Bottom line: digital restriction management sucks. It's fundamentally shitty, and it's still shitty when Apple does it. Will it be more or less shitty with Microsoft? I don't know, but I am 100% certain it will still be shitty.

Should we even care? So, there's this company, AllOfMP3.com, that sells unencumbered audio. It's a Russian company, with a license to sell the music from a Russian copyright agency. Is it legal for me, a US citizen, to buy this music? If it is legal, is there any reason why iTMS should even exist, when compared to this vastly superior competitor?

I've tried them out. The rate is $0.01/Mb, or about $0.70 for an album (with my settings), encoded in whatever format and bitrate I choose. It all works pretty smoothly. The selection is a bit odd (they have a ton of Frank Zappa; I guess it's an Eastern European thing), but it's reasonably extensive, and they add 10-15 albums a day.

In this interview of the AllOfMP3 CIO, he emphasizes that the service is intended for Russian users, though maybe that's just the story he needs to tell. This article claims that AllOfMP3.com is illegal (in Australia); specifically that ROMS (a Russian equivalent of ASCAP or BMI) doesn't have the right to authorize the music. ROMS claims otherwise of course. Do I, as a consumer, need to worry about any of this? If I buy the music in good faith, isn't that good enough?

Of course, it's not quite that clear -- it feels like a loophole, at best. There's a certain pleasure in this; if corporations can shop around in various countries for low wages, poor environmental controls, etc, then can't I shop around for permissive copyright laws? At the prices AllOfMP3 charges, there can't be a lot of money going to licensing, but then they have to compete against widespread CD piracy in Russia, and I'm guessing pirated CDs are in the $1-$3 range(?) So the prices make sense in Russia, even if they seem suspiciously low for the US.

Lastly, there's the ethical question. Not "am I stealing from the record labels?", I couldn't give a damn about that. Plus it's not stealing, since I'm clearly not taking anything from anyone. But there is the issue of the artists. I somehow doubt that the estate of Frank Zappa is getting regular royalty checks from ROMS (though maybe I'm wrong). The RIAA doesn't have the interest of the artists in mind either, so I'm not enthusiastic about either alternative. I'm also okay with the idea that I may not support every artist I like, and I may not support them in every transaction, but if ultimately I'm supporting musicians in a sustainable way, that it's ethical. If no one is really offering a complete, ethical manner to support artists while enjoying their works, is there a balance I can create as an individual?

I'm interested in hearing other people's thoughts.

Created 06 Sep '04
Modified 14 Dec '04


AOM seems to be legal in the US (the RIAA said they won't pursue any of its users). The only reason they don't have the entire online music downloading marketshare is because they have absolutely no marketing in the western countries and people believe it is to good to be true.
# Mike Douglas

One possible alternative, although everyone says this and no-one does it, is to listen to music not made by famous artists. There's places like http://mperia.com/ and so on serving up this sort of thing. Obviously, there's the issue of finding good music from that without the radio to help out...
# sil

Lo Ian.

I read a couple of posts here in France about the AOM. In france this is clearly illegal. In fact AOM buy the right for songs at the Russian Price. So they can resell it in Russia, that's all. So if they sell songs out of Russia, they can be sue by record's company. And worst, in france, the record company can sue the people's too because they own music that doesn't pay the rights for that. This has never happen, but ..

Check this http://linuxfr.org/~yaubi/13539.html (use a translator) for additionnal information.
# Jkx

What about the hymn project? It removes Apple's DRM to enable fair use rights.


The going rate for a pirate CD in Moscow was about three or four dollars when I was there a couple of years go. There's a huge market my girlfriend (Russian) goes to to stock up whenever she's in town.
# Alan Little

Is it illegal if I go to russia and buy (legit) CD's there and take them home with me? What about if I go to russia and download them onto my laptop there? I guess I am probably liable for import duty, but isn't this equivalent to buying cheap CDs from Amazon.com and having them posted to the UK.
# Laurence Rowe

Thanks for the pointer Ian. I had a look at it and got some great stuff. Further thoughts at http://www.alanlittle.org/weblog/AllofMP3.html
# Alan Little

BTW, for people who have problems downloading from AOM, you can just copy the links into a text file, and run:

for LINE in `cat linkfile.txt` ; do wget $LINE ; done

I believe wget is standard on Mac OS X, so this should work well. You don't have to be logged in to download the files; I assume the links are personalized in some fashion.
# Ian Bicking

Can you explain that a little further? Having problems downloading from AOM with Mac OSX.

Please? thanks!

# Gina Quiroga

Well, I'm not sure what else to say... I think you can use SimpleText to make a text file with all the URLs. Save it to your desktop, then open the Terminal, which you can find in Applications:Utilities, and type at the command line:

cd Desktop
for LINE in `cat linkfile.txt` ; do wget $LINE ; done

And it'll just download them all.

# Ian Bicking

You need to get a program like Three Ten or iGetter to download with a Mac.

# Billy

Lo Ian

I guess you just discover the new promotional from emusic.com. I haven't join but, but while browsing the website, i discover that they sell my favorite bands for great price. For example, some rare Sonic Youth album are sell at ~30$ here in France, because it's a 'import'. So emusic sells them without any extra cost .
# Jkx