There's a new public enemy #1 for US record labels when it comes to online piracy: a website called "MP3skull." Mp3skullhead download songs.
The MP3skull site, which was sued for copyright infringement by the major US record labels on Friday, is a no-frills listing of hit songs available for download within a few clicks. The site hosts no content, instead linking to MP3 music files that are available on other sites. For instance, its current top hit, "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa, links to files hosted on sites like mp3light.net, freemp3.se, and trendingmp3.com.
"You can find your favorite songs in our multimillion database of quality mp3 links," the site suggests on its front page. "We provide fast and relevant search... Hope you enjoy staying here!"
The site includes a "copyright" page, which has a series of bizarre disclaimers including one that says "all music on is presented only for fact-finding listening." Another suggests that users must remove songs from their computer after they listen to it.
The record labels' lawsuit (PDF) was filed in the Southern District of Florida, where the site's Web hosting service, Webzilla, is based. The record labels admit they don't know where the site's owners are based. Their investigation points to Russia, but that's far from certain. The complaint describes how during two brief periods in December 2010 and October 2013, MP3Skull's domain registration was visible to the public. At that time, the registration indicated the site's owner was Monica Vasilenko, who lived in the Russian city of Petrozavodsk. Vasilenko and Does 1-10 are being sued as operators of the site.
The complaint describes how MP3Skull operators actively helped users download "obviously infringing files," often explaining via their Facebook and Twitter pages how to "be very creative when you are searching our site" to avoid notices about copyright removals.
In July 2012, for instance, the site operators wrote that they were "forced AGAIN to remove a huge amount of our searches from the same shitty organization." They gave "tips how to work around this" with such tactics as removing individual words from song titles.
The complaint notes that the site has already been banned in the United Kingdom, after that country's High Court of Justice ruled in October 2013 that ISPs had to block the site because of its copyright violations.
In addition to asking for statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work, the RIAA lawsuit asks for an injunction taking away the site's domain names and ordering any Web hosts or registrars doing business with the defendants to stop "facilitating access" to the websites. It also asks for "all third parties" to be stopped from "providing advertising, financial, technical, or other support to MP3Skull."
The RIAA believes the site gets about one million unique US visitors each month, which is about 17 percent of MP3Skull's global traffic. The began redirecting to in February.
"MP3Skull is a very popular rogue website devoted to encouraging and facilitating the massive, brazen and egregious theft of millions of copyrighted sound recordings," an RIAA spokesperson told Ars in a statement, noting that record labels have sent millions of DMCA notices, but to little avail. "The facts laid out in our complaint spell that out in damning detail... MP3Skull continues to exist and flourish. The modern Internet landscape has no room for this kind of blatantly illicit site."
MP3Skull didn't immediately respond to requests for comment sent via its website and Facebook page.
US record labels have taken down numerous file-sharing sites in the past via litigation, although it has often been a long battle. Last year, the RIAA sued Megaupload, a "cyberlocker" site that's also facing criminal charges brought by the US government.
Where to download free mp3
Going back in years, there's a long list of sites that were wiped out following RIAA litigation. Napster, KaZaa, Morpheus, and Grokster all have fallen by the wayside. Last year, EMI won its long-running lawsuit against the site MP3Tunes.com, with a verdict ordering the site's founder to pay $41 million.