We all like music, if you’re reading this you have an internet connection, we of course have a desire to obey copyright law, we hate copy-controlled music downloads and we resent having to pay £6.99 for an ‘album’ of music from a legal download site when we could probably get it cheaper on Amazon.

So what’s the alternative? Well a Russian site, is selling tracks for $0.10 each with 10% off if you buy a full album. Sounds dodgy? Sure. But is it legal? Amusingly yes. Or at least it will be for another year until the Russian Federation changes it’s laws to appease the RIAA and other similar groups.

The legal loophole is that Russian law counts the internet as a broadcast medium, in the same bracket as radio. And if it’s broadcast the company doesn’t have to ask the permission of the copyright holder to broadcast it, they just have to make royalties available to them. This means it’s possible to buy Beatles tracks (illegal outside of the UK) as well as Metallica (who only license their music to be sold by album, not individual tracks), both of which cannot be found on US or European legal music download sites.

Couple this with the fact that in the UK, US and elsewhere it is the distributor of the music who breaches copyright, the consumer is entirely legally entitled to the music they download from MP3Search as long as they don’t share it with anybody else.

And the risk of credit card fraud? Well the company has been going for over a year and there have been no reports of fraud, but apparently (I’ve yet to verify this) it’s possible to buy gift vouchers through a trusted source and use those instead of giving the company your credit card number.

I’ll certainly be giving this a go. Apparently the library is massively extensive and vastly more reliable than some of the more… illicit music download options. Alledgedly. I heard.

Update (April ’06): Well, I’ve been successfully using mp3search.ru for a number of months now and I’m still very happy with it. No fraud, no performance issues and loads of DRM-free, legal, cheap MP3 downloads. The site is weak when it comes to audiobooks but very strong when it comes to new content. And I do prefer actually owning the MP3 rather than renting it via Napster.
There are only about four months left in this site, as the law in Russia changes then, but until then it’s worth it for topping up your music collection. And at about $1.50 per album you’d be silly not to.