Thursday, December 28, 2006

Danish court blocks Russian music site

A Danish court has moved to block consumers from using, an online Russian music store accused of selling albums below their market price and cheating artists out of the royalties.

The judge in the Copenhagen City Court ordered the Swedish Internet service provider Tele2 AB to block its subscribers from reaching the site, said a spokesman for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a record label trade group whose Copenhagen branch filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Danish recording industry.

"We will be looking with interest when the translation comes out on Monday to see if we can learn any lessons. Other groups are welcome to look at this and see if they can do it in their own territories," said Alex Jacob, an IFPI spokesman in London.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) may bring a similar lawsuit in the U.K., and there is a criminal case pending in the Russian courts, he said. The IFPI is also affiliated with the largest U.S. music industry trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the U.S. is making the Web site an issue as Russia attempts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Neither Tele2 nor replied to requests for comment.

In a virtual press conference in October, an executive at admitted he had never paid royalties to the artists, but insisted his site was legal because those dues were being held by the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS). Artists are free to petition ROMS for their money or to deny permission to sell their songs, but very few have done so, said Vadim Mamotin, director general of the Web site's parent company, Mediaservices Inc.

The international community seems wary of those claims, however. In October, the credit card companies Visa International Service Association and Mastercard Worldwide announced they were refusing to process their customers' credit card payments registered on the site. In a company blog, decried those moves as illegitimate policies enacted outside the legal process.

Still, the Danish court decision has given momentum to the music industry. "This decision eliminates any doubt that people may have about the illegality of," said Jens-Otto Paludan, chairman of IFPI Denmark and managing director of Universal Music Denmark. His remarks were issued in a release. " is an illegal service, which cheats artists and producers of millions of kroner every year. With this judicial decision, we can, at last, bring one of the most provoking pirate services' activities in this country to an efficient standstill."