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There are several web sites out there that sell MP3 music files for 10 cents each. Most of these web sites seem to be based in Ukraine, and they all have FAQs that claim that they pay full royalties to the artists. Here are a few examples:

From mp3va.com:

Q: Is your web site legal?

A: Yes, the activity of Mp3va.com is carried out according to the legislation of the license # IT - 07/13 No IT - 07 - 1/13 of the Ukrainian Public Organization "Avtor" issued for Beowner Ltd. Service www.Mp3va.com pays full-scale author's royalties to owners of pieces of music, trademarks, names, slogans and other copyright objects used on the site. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting is prohibited.

From melodishop.com:

Q: Is your web site legal?

A: Yes, the activity of MelodiShop.com is carried out according to the legislation of the license agreement # I-003/11 from June, 14 2011 of the State Enterprise "Ukrainian Agency of Copyright and Related Rights" (UACRR). Service www.MelodiShop.com pays full-scale author's royalties to owners of pieces of music, trademarks, names, slogans and other copyright objects used on the site. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting is prohibited.

From mp3million.com:

Q: Is your web site legal?

A: Yes, the activity of Mp3million.com is carried out according to the legislation of the license agreement # 67/17M-10 of the Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively (NP "FAIR"). Service www.Mp3million.com pays full-scale author's royalties to owners of pieces of music, trademarks, names, slogans and other copyright objects used on the site. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting is prohibited.

I'm not asking about legality (I already asked that question on Law.SE). I want to know if those sites really pay royalties to the artists.

  • Not an answer, however - Hard to say, based on my slim evidence, but best I can do is... I can find one of my albums on one of those sites. idk the current licensing on that particular album, so idk whether it should be there or not. I've never had any income from Ukraine relating to it. That could of course mean it never sold a single copy there, so it's not actually proof of anything, hence 'not an answer'. – Tetsujin Jul 13 '15 at 10:17
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I surmise that they pay out some money, but it is such a small amount as to be trivial, and it is not in keeping with the proper rates paid in other countries with laws that are more favorable to the rights of musicians and recording artists.

It's a complex issue. There are two kinds of revenue. On the one hand there are royalties paid to songwriters. On the other hand there are business contracts for the sale of the actual recordings of the songs, paid to the record labels who own the recordings, and who usually financed the recording sessions and financed the manufacture and distribution of the recordings in physical form, e.g. CDs.

Every nation has a bureau of the government called a performing rights organization that collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and/or their publishing companies (except in the USA, where there are several private organizations, eg ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, who collect royalties for songwriters and publishing companies under the authority of laws passed by the government).

Each nation's performing rights organization has to address the problem of collecting royalties for performances and sales of the songs written by songwriters who are citizens of their nation that take place in other nations. They have to strike reciprocal arrangements with other performing rights organizations in other nations, and they have to reach international accords on rates and business practices.

Every record label in every nation has to conduct licensing arrangements and make legal contracts to sell their music products domestically and world-wide. If people somewhere are selling their recordings without having reached a licensing agreement, then that is regarded as theft, but it is up to the record labels to pursue legal actions against the pirates. Given the international legal environment, or lack thereof, it would be very hard if not impossible for an American record label, for example, to press a lawsuit for piracy against a company selling MP3s in Ukraine.

It's my understanding that the laws and business practices for collecting and paying royalties and making licensing agreements in the Ukraine are exceptionally weak and the rates collected and payed are exceptionally low compared to those of many other nations. This is why those cheap MP3 sites are operating in the jurisdiction of the Ukraine to begin with.

What they do is tolerated and may meet the requirements of the law within the Ukraine, but I daresay that the performing rights organizations and record labels of the other nations in the world are disappointed with the way business is done in Ukraine because if any royalties or licensing fees are payed and collected, very little money ever changes hands, and very little if any money makes its way out of the Ukraine and back to the songwriters and record labels.

Follow the old adage of "If it sounds too good to be true, it is not true." If you are concerned about the music you purchase resulting in money getting back to the artists who created the music, then don't purchase it at ridiculously cheap prices from shady businesses headquartered in a nation with shady laws and business practices regarding the sale of recorded music.

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