Jailtime Seems A Bit Harsh For Online Music Store Owners Who Didn't Get All The Right Licenses
from the why-not-just-make-them-pay-up? dept
Most readers here probably know the story of Allofmp3.com — a Russian website that signed a licensing deal with a Russian music licensing group ROMS. The site was immensely popular because (a) it sold un-DRM’d files (back before that was common) and (b) sold music incredibly cheaply. The recording industry should have taken this as a lesson in how to create a super popular online music store — but instead it freaked out, and nearly created an international diplomatic incident in threatening Russia with economic sanctions unless it shut the site down. The problem was that since it had the ROMS license, it was legal in Russia. In fact, Allofmp3.com even tried to pay the record labels some money — which they refused. The record labels, of course, insisted that the ROMS license wasn’t sufficient, but no Russian court ever agreed. Eventually the site was shut down, though it lives on at MP3Sparks. However, it’s lost a lot of steam because the site has been blocked from accepting most common forms of payment.
Law Professor Michael Scott points us to the news of what appears to be a similar offering in Italy — except that, in this case, the operators of the site have been sent to jail. The only news that I can find on this is from the IFPI site — which is obviously a bit biased, but it does look like the owners of the site did get a license from the Italian Authors’ Society (SIAE), which they believed was sufficient. A lower court agreed, but the appeals court has sided with the record labels.
But here’s the kicker: the operators of the site have now been sent to jail for criminal copyright infringement. Already I have problems with most criminal copyright infringement cases — because, by any reasonable standard, copyright is a civil dispute — it’s an issue between two businesses. In this case, it’s even more egregious because it seems clear that the site wasn’t just some random guy selling MP3s he had no right to, but had clearly tried to obtain the correct licenses. However, these days, when to do just about anything with music you need to get numerous different licenses (Peter Jenner, back at MidemNet, claimed that you needed 33 different permissions to do pretty much anything with music in Europe, though others disagreed), it seems fairly ridiculous to throw someone in jail for not being able to figure out every single party that has to sign off on something — especially when you were lead to believe that you had what you needed via the Authors’ Society.