Fifteen cents a song -- is it too good to be true?
By Morgan Rindlesbach
December 15, 2006 | Tabbi Perkins is willing to pay
one dollar to download music- as long as that gets her
an entire album.
"I use to spend hundreds of dollars on downloads,"
said Perkins. "Now I can purchase music with pennies."
Perkins, who is majoring in social work, is among
many U.S. music fans which have discovered GoMusic.ru,
one of the recently popular Russian Web sites offering
downloads for as little as 15 cents. These sites are
catching the attention of U.S. citizens because they
offer downloads similar in fashion to iTunes, but at
cheaper prices -- $1.87 an album versus iTunes' price
at $9.99 an album.
However, noticeable differences exist between the
two services. iTunes has
a larger database, faster downloads, and a more interactive
Web site. Some users of the Russian sites have complained
in online forums about incomplete albums, poor customer
service and slow downloads. Consumers also worry about
handing over a credit card numbers to a Russian company
-- some of the sites, including GoMusic.ru, require
users to register and "fund" accounts before they can
Brooke Buddell, a Utah State student, said she currently
uses iTunes but rarely downloads songs because it is
just too expensive.
"If I knew about a cheaper place to download songs,
I would definitely do it," said Buddell. "On iTunes,
the money adds up too fast."
After logging on to the GoMusic.ru for the first time,
she said that even though iTunes offers better online
services, the Russian Web site is still more appealing
because of the extremely low price.
"This will forever change the way I download music,"
Although online consumers seem pleased to have such
cheap prices, some wonder if it is too good to be true.
Can this be legal? A June
2006 article from The New York Times highlighted
how recording industries in the United States and Europe
have been trying to close many of these MP3 Web sites,
claiming it is outright infringement.
GoMusic.ru defends their Web site, claiming they are
in no violation of the law because the legislature in
Russia enforces compulsory licenses, which means anyone
can get the license to distribute and sell the music
as long as they pay fees to ROMS (a Russian collection
agency which then re-distributes the money to copyright
holders). According to news reports, the operation of
these sites were ruled legal in Russia, but the question
still remains if downloading from these sights is legal
for U.S. citizens.
One consumer in an online
discussion forum argues that it is no different
than going to Russia and buying a CD at a cheaper price
and then bringing it back to the United States, just
like U.S. citizens buy drugs from Canada at cheaper
prices and then bring them back into the country.
However, the recording industry regards Russia as
the second-largest piracy market in the world after
China, and still has hopes that eventually Russian authorities
will take action and shut down these popular Internet
This controversy over the legality of GoMusic.ru and
other Russian sites highlights the difficulties that
copyright companies face due to differing versions of
laws around the world that are often imperfectly adapted
to the world-wide use of the Internet. Thus far no U.S.
court prosecutions have made it clear as to whether
the average American citizen can legally download from
these sites, and until they do consumers will continue
to take advantage of the cheaper prices offered overseas.