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Welcome Down but Not Out
May 15, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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If there's one online music distribution model that has a chance of toppling iTunes, would be it. With fair prices, tremendous quantity and a variety of available formats, Russian service has become a premier download venue - one that by some accounts exceeds the popularity of Napster.

With its growing popularity however comes enormous controversy. Although is a pay service, its pricing, format and copy protection structure (or lack there of) has drawn the ire of the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.) Unlike most authorized download services which charge a flat rate of 99 cents per file, charges by volume. Each megabyte costs 2 cents, therefore the greater the quality the greater the price. For example, a 320 kbps bitrate MP3 from may end up costing the customer a whopping 8 cents while a 128 kbps may be as little as 4 cents.

In addition to an inexpensive price structure, music downloaded from contains no copy protection, or DRM (Digital Rights Management.) This allows the individual to copy, burn or transport the file to as many portable devices or share among friends without restriction. Customers of the service are also entitled to choose from a virtually any format, such as lossless FLAC, OGG, or MP3.'s reputation for high quality music coupled with excellent customer service has allowed this service to approach near-mainstream success.

Yet the legality of remains in dispute. Because of considerably weak Russian online copyright laws (there are no provisions for online distribution), enforcement against the service has been met with fustration. Additionally, claims they pay royalties to the relevant collection agency in Russia.

The IFPI filed a complaint against in February of 2005; however their attempt lost steam when Vladimir Dragunov, the IFPI’s legal advisor in Russia, warned the IFPI “don’t have much chance of succeeding” if they attacked the digital music retailer. Moscow later dropped the charges against

Considering the entertainment industry’s position against, many fans of this service feared the worst when the site was unavailable for a second day. Instead of the typical homepage, visitors were greeted with the following message:

“Attention” “We are sorry but the server is closed for maintenance”

However this is not the result of a civil complaint from the IFPI, nor does it appear to be anything other than a legitimate server issue.

“As far as we know the site is genuinely down for repair,” an IFPI spokesperson told “Russian authorities had ordered the seizure of some of the site’s servers a couple of weeks ago, but it switched to new servers and the service carried on.”

Although there's an ongoing case against, the service appears safe for now. A request for comment from the administration of was not immediately returned at time of publication.

Update: After three days offline, has returned. No explanation other than the above mentioned server problem has been indicated. Although the site is back, ordering music appears to be unavailable.

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Unauthorized Distribution ::

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