Tonight, I have just downloaded 150Mb worth of MP3 - all 16 tracks of G3 Live album Rocking in the Free World in 192kbps VBR MP3 encoded by LAME encoder. There is no stupid DRM on these files, so I am free to burn them onto CD's and play it on my computers at home and at work, or upload to my iPod, as if I have one. It consts around USD$1.50 for me to download them, which is around AUD$2.16 as of today. Cheap. But it is completely legal. Well, sort of.
I have been hearing a lot of praises on AllofMP3.com - about the cheap and "legitimate" digital music downloads that do not have any DRM restriction, and you can download the files in whatever encoding you want - from good old MP3, next generation AAC to looseless format. Instead of charging by tracks, like all other online music stores, it charges by the megabytes you have downloaded. While the most popular of them charges USD$0.99 per track, the Australian wannabe charges AUD$1.89 per track if you did not sign up their dodgy broadband service, AllofMP3.com charges USD$0.01 for each megabyte you have downloaded - which in average implies to only 6-10 cents Aussie dollar per track!
How can it be true, I wondered. So on Saturday morning I thought, well, why not give it a try to see what the fuss is all about. So I look up quite a few sites reviewing this service, and most importantly - how legal it is. Museekster music service review site gave most of the answers in its AllofMP3 FAQ section. Basically, AllofMP3.com is "legal" because it pays Russian's equivalent to RIAA for the songs it sells on the Internet:
Allofmp3 has signed agreements for this with Russian Organization for Multimedia & Digital Systems (ROMS). According to license № ЛС-ЗМ-02-36 the Internet-project www.allofmp3.com, has the right to use musical compositions by providing downloads. Under the license agreement Allofmp3 pays out fees to ROMS for downloaded materials that are subject to the Russian Federation Copyright And Related Rights Law.
However, it turns out that ROMS automatically acquires the rights to intellectual properties for the Russian distributors, even if the arts/song writers/publishers are not subject to the Russian law. In the other words, the music that I have just downloaded is completely legal in Russia. I can download a legal MP3 file in the same way as I can legally purchase a book from Amazon.com from the states. However, Satriani, Vai and Malmsteen were not consented by ROMS with the MP3 files I've just downloaded from AllofMP3.com.
The artists, however, were paid by ROMS for the files I've just downloaded. From FAQ:
... All third party distributors licensed by ROMS are required to pay a portion of the revenue to the ROMS. ROMS in turn, is obligated to pay most of that money (aside from small portion it needs for operating expenses) to artists. Both Russian and foreign.
I have no idea how much the artists got paid from RIAA or ARIA for each album they have sold. They are still getting paid by AllofMP3.com/ROMS, but my guess would be less than the amount from RIAA/ARIA.
Now, from Christian perspective - should I download my music from AllofMP3.com? We all know that we should not steal, and downloading pirated software/CD tracks is stealing from those who should have been paid. Christians should not partake in illegal activities like warez or MP3 pirating. Now, it seems to be okay to download from AllofMP3.com - you have paid (a fraction of amount), it is legal (from Russians point of view), and the artists get paid (probably a fraction of amount as well). But, we probably have ripped the greedy publishers off. The artists have never been consented that their creation would be downloaded from a Russian site. And a point made by Tim, it is probably very difficult to help our fellow Christians to see that what you are doing is legal, as there is no shining pressed CD in jewel case!
Anyway. Gotta go and enjoy my newly downloaded "legal" MP3's, and let the intellectual property related discussion 'til next time. Now I just hope they have Chinese CD's in store...