allofmp3 legality
January 17, 2007 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Is using allofmp3 any more or less legal than downloading from an open server that lives somewhere under explicit RIAA coverage? What about an open server in Russia?
posted by mzurer to Law & Government (19 answers total)
It's questionable at best. The best case for its legality can be made in Russia itself, but many people have questioned even this. (Most of us, however, do not live in Russia.)

I'm not exactly clear by what you mean by "open server" -- P2P, maybe? If the RIAA is to be believed, it's exactly the same in the US, because they do not recognize AllOfMp3 as a legitimate company.
posted by MarcieAlana at 12:07 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: If you don't know what I mean by open server, you may not be familiar enough with the issues to answer this question, which is specifically about comparing allofmp3 to other methods of acquiring media.
posted by mzurer at 12:12 PM on January 17, 2007

I'm assuming you are in the US? In that case it makes no difference how you get it. If it is from an unauthorized (read: unlicensed) source, allofmp3, bittorrent, p2p, ftp, whatever, all are equally illegal.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:19 PM on January 17, 2007

IANAL, and I'm assuming you're asking as a U.S. resident.

The short answer is that legally, it's unclear how legal AllOfMP3 is- it hinges on whether U.S. courts can establish jurisdiction because the client is in the U.S., even though the server is in Russia. BUT, I'm pretty sure that no one would question that either of your "open server" scenarios are illegal.

So, technically, AllOfMP3 is "slightly" more legal than an open server. At worst, I don't think the RIAA will ever go after their clients without a clear court case establishing them as not legal in the U.S.

Personally, I think if you're not going to buy your music outright, you shouldn't kid yourself into thinking that because AllOfMP3 is legal via some loophole, that their business model doesn't make the RIAA look like saints. None of the money you pay them will ever go to the artists, nor will it fund development of upcoming acts.
posted by mkultra at 12:20 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: Good point, Pastabagel - the hypothetical user is in the US. The conventional wisdom is that uploading is more clearly illegal than downloading, I just wonder if this is actually true, and if different kinds of downloading are differently legal.
posted by mzurer at 12:21 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: Or illegal, rather.
posted by mzurer at 12:22 PM on January 17, 2007

It's questionable enough that I think they'd have real trouble prosecuting you. The transaction is legal in Russia. You also have the right to buy CDs when in Russia, for personal use, and import them. There is a specific exemption in US law that allows importing of music bought elsewhere for personal use, although I don't have a link handy.

A judge could rule that you are importing them; he could also rule that you are illegally infringing copyright. It's hard to say, although finding out would be exceedingly expensive.

Regardless of what the RIAA thinks, allofmp3 IS legal in Russia. That is beyond a shadow of a doubt. We have brought pressure to bear from the very highest levels of our government and they remain open for business. They are legal in Russia.

The chances of being prosecuted for using their service are extremely slim, since you're not sharing the files with others. The RIAA wouldn't appear to have any easy way to detect what you're up to. Downloading with a peer protocol like bittorrent, on the other hand, is not a very good idea, because you are also uploading. This means your IP is public: it's easy to find out who you are.
posted by Malor at 12:30 PM on January 17, 2007


The conventional wisdom is that uploading is more clearly illegal than downloading

IANAL, but I think conventionally, whoever initiates/performs the action of duplication is the primary infringer, and online, that is the downloader. However, practical reality is that going after the source (who is contributing to the infringement), ie the uploader, is more effective at stemming infringement. I think it would be acurate to say that one download is more clearly illegal than hosting a file that is downloaded by someone else once, but hosting is more likely to get you into trouble :)

posted by -harlequin- at 12:36 PM on January 17, 2007

The conventional wisdom is that uploading is more clearly illegal than downloading,

I don't think it's that uploading is "more illegal" than downloading. It's that it makes more sense, from a practical standpoint, for the copyright owner to go after the uploader than after the downloader.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:40 PM on January 17, 2007

see, previously
posted by philomathoholic at 12:44 PM on January 17, 2007

IANAL, but I'd figure that an open server( as found by G2P, for example ) might theoretically be trespassing(if the server is just misconfigured), on top of whatever other laws one might be violating. I THINK that would make it more illegal.
posted by Orb2069 at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2007

Copyright infringement is not a violation of criminal law (unless you are distributing something worth more than $1000 at retail, or you're distributing something for profit). No matter what the *IAA's tell you, it is impossible to go to jail for downloading bootlegged material, because when you download pirated material, you may be infringing on someone's property rights (which may allow them to sue for damages), but you are not breaking the law (which could get you thrown in the pokey).

Legality aside, downloading something from an open server is probably safer, because when AllOfMP3 eventually gets shut down, it's a safe bet that their customer records are going to end up in the hands of someone you'd rather not have access to them.

posted by toxic at 5:17 PM on January 17, 2007

If you don't know what I mean by open server, you may not be familiar enough with the issues to answer this question, which is specifically about comparing allofmp3 to other methods of acquiring media.
- mzurer

Wow. Considering you're soliciting answers, you may want to stay away from discouraging posters.
posted by ASM at 7:00 PM on January 17, 2007

The copyright on a song is a license *you* are bound by when you possess the song.

A lot of people happily defended allofmp3 here in earlier threads, and now they appear to have been wrong.

If you really want to steal from musicians, make sure that you understand that's what you are doing.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:27 AM on January 18, 2007

AllofMp3 doesn't pay the musicians. So, ethically you're not in any better of a place than if you just pulled it from somewhere for free.

While they may be legal in Russia, the service they provide is probably not legal here. As a US resident you would most likely be breaking copyright law by purchasing an "unlicensed" copy of music, regardless of the source. In the US, [the RIAA, the artist, whomever] owns the copyright, so if you're in the US, that copyright applies. Point being, it's the jurisdiction of the purchaser that matters for *you*.

How about a different take: pot is illegal where I live. Were I to order some pot from a place where it is legal, the fact that it is legal is Potistan won't help my position when I get to court.

On the other hand, the RIAA is going to have an increasingly hard time prosecuting.
posted by jaded at 5:52 AM on January 18, 2007

There's some bad advice here, so it's worth clarifying. As Pastabagel said, US copyright law is very clear on this point: if you "copy" (i.e., download) a song without authorization by the copyright holder (i.e., the songwriter or music label), you are subject to liability for copyright infringement. IOW, it's illegal, and it makes no difference how or where you obtained the song, only that you copied it without permission.

If you are interested in the more practical reason of whether you would actually be sued for infringement as a result of using or a similar Russian site, that's something you need to determine for yourself based on your own comfort level. But make no mistake: unauthorized downloading is unlawful regardless of whether the site is hosted in the US, Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan, Antarctica, or anywhere else.
posted by padjet1 at 6:02 AM on January 18, 2007

It's unclear why I wrote "reason" rather than "question" in the second paragraph, but I think the point is still clear.
posted by padjet1 at 6:05 AM on January 18, 2007

Response by poster: I'm not really interested in the ethical/moral aspects of the question - I'm perfectly able to work those out on my own.

Technical legal considerations are my focus here. It is interesting to think about downloading as copying. I had never thought about it in those terms, as most network file operations I think of as moving - But in a network copy operation, the copy is made on the fly. It's not as thoguh the server makes a copy and puts it in the download queue. In this case the copy is really made in the client's jurisdicton, not in the server's. It's as though you have a photocopy machine with the scanner in Russia and the printer in the USA.
posted by mzurer at 8:51 AM on January 18, 2007

You can try to conceptualize it however you like, but, regardless of its logic, downloading a song violates section 106 of the Copyright Act. Hope that helps.
posted by padjet1 at 12:18 PM on January 18, 2007

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