So, you thought only Americans would be the target of anti-piracy crackdowns? Think again. Shortly after the raid of popular music torrent swap site oink.cd, British authorities now say they’re looking for a legislative anti-piracy remedy. They’ve got the backing, not surprisingly, of the British record industry, and it seems continental European nations might follow. Blogger and controversy-magnet Cory Doctorow is even getting to the debate, along with angry UK Internet Service Providers, as reported by BBC News. The apparent solution seems worse than the problem, as British officials propose monitoring individual data packets. (I’m not usually one to agree with Cory Doctorow, but surveillance of all data moving over the Internet seems impractical and wrong.)

Meanwhile, oink.cd’s homepage has been replaced with an ominous warning:

This site has been closed as a result of a criminal investigation by IFPI, BPI,
Cleveland Police and the Fiscal Investigation Unit of the Dutch Police (FIOD ECD) into
suspected illegal music distribution.

A criminal investigation continues into the identities and activities of the site’s
users.

[Emphasis mine]

So, will the UK really come after oink’s users, or is that just an idle threat?

Meanwhile, a number of you have written in with what I think is a good criticism of the oink raid, one worth considering even for those of us who oppose piracy. Why did these agencies go after oink first, a torrent tracker that was hosting at least some torrents uploaded legitimately by indie labels, and one far smaller and less focused on pre-release albums than bigger trackers like mininova? Was it because the site’s popularity among some of the music fan elite made it a more obvious target — or simply that the really dangerous and popular torrents are harder to squash? (Or both?) See Veqtor’s comment for a good summary. Some are also putting forward various conspiracy theories, but I personally suspect laziness on the part of the industry and UK/Europe authorities. Software developer and label owner Chris Randall has a well-argued rant against piracy in the same comment thread. But separate from that argument, the failing of the authorities in this case, and some of the potential oink demonstrates for non-pirate, legitimate sites, are well worth considering. See comments on the previous post.

  • http://poodleface.livejournal.com Poodleface

    OiNK was very well organized and was draconian about not allowing poorly encoded files to last very long on the tracker. The high quality of the site had to be a consideration when choosing to target it. On the larger free-for-all trackers there is no guarantee of quality… you cannot even be sure you are getting what you download. When such a site is outperforming legitimate retailers of online music in quality (not to mention empowering many independent artists) it makes more and more sense why it would be targeted.

    OiNK was also extremely exhaustive. You could quite literally find anything on there. With public trackers you are bound to find something that you cannot download for free at some point. There was no such problem with OiNK. While a lot of people used such power "responsibly" there were probably a greater number of users who just saw it as a leechfest, likely people who came in recently after OiNK increased the number of invites that users with positive ratios received.

    I do miss the community aspect of it. There was one user who uploaded Japanese indie rock albums, most being limited CD-R only releases… some amazing stuff that I would never have heard in my life if not for the site. That was OiNK at its best.

  • http://www.angstrom.timeshard.com Angstrom

    but I personally suspect laziness on the part of the industry and UK/Europe authorities

    I suspect it was merely a hittable target which was visible above the horizon. So rather than laziness I expect it was actually do-ableness which drove this raid. UK police are not going to travel to Sweden or China, Middlesbrough is much more do-able.

    I'm going to re-iterate the related point about users too. Why do users go to Pirate sites?

    Now for some reason everyone starts bickering terrible pointless nonsense like : "why do you steal my music" and "everything should be free man" which is a pretty senseless exploration of the general motive to piracy here.

    I contend that for the majority of non-hardened users pirate sites simply offer convenience. Many 'users' of such services would happily pay for the service, but the pirate (in many cases) provides a simpler path. That simple convenience may be a burnt CD provided by a friend, or it might be typing 'Robbie Williams' in a well publicised torrent site.

    Peter suggested that the police were lazy in their targeting. My point is : Everyone is lazy, everyone just needs to get to point B via the simplest route.

    But that doesn't mean they are against paying.

    An example of inconvenience & the barrier to payment – tonight I wanted to watch the latest episode of 'Heroes'. Now I would pay about £1 for this without a grumble, that seems fair to me.

    Can anyone direct me to an official method where I can watch that latest episode in the UK ? (IE not the NBC site, because that blocks non US IP addresses) . Nope

    But I do know of an 'illegal' TV streaming site or two which are more convenient.

    There we have our classic situation, neither black nor white: I just watched Heroes online illegally and I do not feel bad about it, but I would have paid NBC for it if it was possible.

    Of course my point "convenience is the primary barrier to converting users to paying" will now get totally buried by people shouting either "you stole things! you killed my brother!11!!" or alternatively "everything should be free man" so, you know, just carry on throwing rocks at each other for being human.

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  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Angstrom, absolutely with you — the growing stats on online music sales bear out your point. It's true that music piracy didn't go away after the Napster shut down. What's also clear, though, is a lot of people will willingly choose, say, iTunes over a pirate site because it's more convenient. Now with increasingly-good DRM-free music stores, I think there is a real potential for convenience.

    Music software is tougher because the cost is greater, I think — at least *per product*. (Some people spend far more money on music than on software, if they buy enough albums at a time.) So, in that case it comes back to perceiving value when you make the investment, which is going to be vital to sealing the deal even without the threat of piracy. I'm just glad we don't have the country-by-country restrictions on music software that you get with, say, Heroes(!)

  • james

    I love that line 'I’m not usually one to agree with Cory Doctorow'.

  • http://raymond.rnamusic.com octatone
  • dlab

    Regarding OiNK users, I have read where OiNK himself states that their servers were not set up to log enough information to incriminate individual users.

    http://torrentfreak.com/oink-database-didnt-self-

  • http://d4dirtyrecords.com D4Dirty

    I posted this in the older article, but I want to say it here as well:

    I just can’t understand the logic of taking down a site like oink.cd. It was an absolutely free way for labels to distribute their tracks and be exposed to 180 thousand music lovers. No hosting, no bandwidth, no hassles.

    Why couldnt they offer a comprimise and ask users to pay some kind of monthly fee. From the outcry of oink users I am sure most would have been happy to pay around $30 a month? what’s $30 by 180000? well it’s a hell of a lot more then they would have been getting anyway!

    So instead of approaching the oink owner in a civilized business manour and proposing to help him expand the site, mainting quality and impress 180000 people with their forwared thinking they took something a lot of people love and threatened every user with possible legal action.