Top music website will be shut down, says Russia

Russia has agreed to shut down, the music website singled out by the United States as an obstacle to its support for Russian membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The pledge is part of a wider promise by Russia to clamp down on Internet piracy and other intellectual property violations, in return for US support for its accession to the trade body.

Susan Schwab, the US Trade Representative, had made the closure of, which America regards as one of the world's largest online repositories of pirated music, a non-negotiable issue in the two countries' dealings.

Ms Schwab and German Gref, the Russian Minister of Trade and Economic Development, signed a side-letter agreement detailing Russia's pledge to target the site on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam earlier this month.

The deal commits Russia to take actions against sites with servers on Russian territory that illegally distribute copyrighted material and to prosecute the companies behind them.

But, which insists it is a legitimate business because it pays royalties to a Russian organisation, was still running today, flagging tracks by The Beatles and U2 among its "bestsellers".

The company has attracted more than 5 million users by undercutting rivals. It sells tracks for between 10 and 20 US cents each, compared with 99 cents at Apple's American iTunes store and 79p in the UK.

A spokesman for the company told "AllofMP3 doesn't expect the Russian government to take any action against the company since it operates within the current law. The company is fully committed to its business."

Erick Schwartz, counsel to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, an organisation that represents American copyright holders, told Inside US Trade: "In general, the side letter is very good and very comprehensive. But the jury is out on whether it will be fully implemented." says it is legal because it pays royalties to artists through the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society, a body that claims to represent copyright holders but which the US does not recognise. Last month, Visa, the credit card group, dealt a blow when it said it would no longer process payments to the group.

Russia's pledges on intellectual also cover a clampdown on pirated DVDs and CDs and greater restrictions on generic drugs.

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