Is it legal to buy songs from Russian MP3 sites?

That’s a question that came up on boingboing.

“[L]awyers say buying music from the sites is as illegal as downloading it for free over a file-swapping network. “It doesn’t matter if somebody downloads in the U.S. and believes that it’s legal because the site tells them so,” says Evan Cox, an intellectual property lawyer at the firm Covington & Burling in San Francisco.”

Actually, this will only be the first of a lot of consumer law oriented questions.

How am I – as a mere user – supposed to judge whether a service like this is legal or not? How do I even know if buying from the iTunes Music Store is legal???

That is a problem that doesn’t just apply to music or videos – there is a discussion underway in germany to prohibit betting on sports events (after the current scandals involving soccer referees). But: even if there’s a law in germany that prohibits operation, what keeps someone from opening up a betting agency on some island, operating over the internet?

We need to say bye bye to the blacklisting approach, because it’s not going to work in a connected world. We need to whitelist “good” offerings and make them attractive to people, hence rendering less serious offers unattractive.

This can’t just all be done on the backs of consumers… right now you’ll punish them for using an illegal service, and then you can’t help them because you can’t sue them on some remote island. This is not going to work.

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