OiNK admin acquitted on copyright charges

The administrator of an invite-only music sharing site was found not guilty in a U.K. court, striking a blow to the music industry that sought his punishment.

Ars Technica reports that OiNK admin Alan Ellis is free after being charged in September 2008 with conspiracy to defraud copyright owners. Prior to that, the BPI and IFPI had spent two years investigating the site on their own, culminating in a police seizure of OiNK’s servers and Ellis’ arrest.

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Prosecutors argued at trial that OiNK was a “cash cow” that earned more than 300,000 pounds off the distribution of copyrighted works, with an estimated 21 million downloads from the service.

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In the end, Ellis’ defense prevailed with the argument that his service is like Google, not breaking the law itself but merely connecting users to what they’re looking for (however, Google responds to DMCA takedown requests now). Ellis’ lawyer also claimed that OiNK was in contact with rights holders, but they never told him to stop running the site before he was arrested.

A comment from the BPI, reported in The Register, suggests the music industry will use this case to argue for tough government laws against illegal file sharing. “The case shows that artists and music companies need better protection,” the organization said.

The United Kingdom is currently considering rules that would allow the suspension of Internet access for illegal file sharers. So far, the BPI has taken the kitchen sink approach to making its case, even arguing that stricter anti-piracy laws are needed to stop the rising threat of newsgroups and search engines.

One other interesting nugget from the OiNK case: Ellis’ attorneys called in University of London professor Birgitte Andersenok to testify that file sharing leads to more music sales (an issue we’ve covered here). Music industry prosecutors responded by calling her account “garbage.”

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