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A Brief History of the Oink Trial Pt1

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

So the oink trial is over, and Alan won.

In a larger sense, many of us won. The Oink raid and trial was, at it’s essence, a show-trial, every bit a spectacle trial (or ‘spectrial’) as last years Pirate Bay one – if not moreso. After all, the Swedish Police didn’t do the raid accompanied by TV cameras – in fact they covered up cameras – but otherwise it was similar.

So let’s go through the case. It started with a raid, covered by the BBC in a regional news program that covered the talking points of the victim (the IFPI/BPI) and the police. Worse, the police, in the form of Detective Inspector Colin Green, made definitive statements that were at odds with the facts.

“There’s approximately 180,000 members, who pay subscriptions to enter the website and download any music that’s available. And music that’s been made available on that website, it’s pre-release, it hasn’t gone into the record shops”

As we all know, subscriptions were not required. Nor was music downloaded from the site. As for the pre-release claims, a small percentage may have been, but the better question is where it came from, presumably a music industry person that decided to upload, and not acquired by Mr Ellis himself.

The ominous warning put on Oink.cd

The domain was also hijacked, by the IFPI and BPI, displaying their logos and an intimidating message. Interestingly, the representatives of the alleged victims, the IFPI and BPI, were not only participating in a criminal investigation, but headlining it. A definite conflict of interest at the very least, but the hijacking of private property owned by the defendant, by the accuser, to post intimidation and attempt to influence people, is clearly an attempt to prejudice the trial. 3 days later, thankfully, the website was redirected, but it shows the levels of influence these industry bodies have over the police.

Meanwhile, Alan Ellis, was released, and spent the next 11 months on bail before being finally charged with “Conspiracy to defraud the music industry”. The UK lobby group FACT has a description of the offence which actually pretty much gave the case as a win for Ellis (and archive.org says the page is still the same as in May 06). The specimen charge they give reads

On a day between the … Day of… 19.. And the … Day of… 19.. In the county of… And elsewhere, conspired with … And with persons unknown to defraud the copyright owners of various video films by marketing/distributing/manufacturing infringing copies of video films contrary to the common law

No-one was defrauded of films, they still had them. The only way the charge could work, is if the claim is that the copyright owners had been deprived of money they might have got. Great, except that argument can be made by anyone you’re in competition with. Oh, and copyright, not a property – it’s an assignable right.

Next time – the build up, the users, and the pre-trial playabout.
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Categories: Analysis, Copyright, Piratey Stuff Tags: ,

Oink and the Technicolour Lie-coat

January 5, 2010 19 comments

One of the core philosophies of reporting is that you only print what you’re sure of. If you don’t know, don’t say. That way Libel lies.

Someone really should tell the Northern Echo (Update; see comments, it’s written by the Press Association) that. Today, they ran a piece about the restarting of Alan Ellis’ trial. Alan, if you didn’t know, was associated with oink, the music bittorrent tracker. If you know about bittorrent, and the case in particular, it’s a real head-slap moment. The majority of the piece appears to have been copied from the RIAA/BPI filings made to police, and 30 seconds research (even to past news stories covering this case) would prove the lie.

Let’s look at some of the errors

A man suspected of operating one of the world’s biggest pirate music websites from a bedsit had his trial adjourned today.

I’m pretty sure the site was operating from a Hosting company. Despite claims made by ISPs, their residential connections aren’t all that fast.

“Computer equipment and documents were seized from his home in Middlesbrough in 2007 and he was charged by police with conspiracy to defraud the music industry and copyright infringement.”

Actually, things seem cut and dried, but it’s not quiet accurate (again). The raids and seizures were made in October 2007 (and ‘coincidentally’ with a BBC camera unit in tow) but Mr Elis was not charged until 11 months later. With Conspiracy to Defraud the Music Industry – a charge unheard of before (possibly because it doesn’t actually exist?)

“Police and music industry investigators suggested that he could have made hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from the OiNK website, which he set up in 2004.

“Could have”, yes. Did do, no. Over the same time period he *could* also have murdered 300 people, or run for the House of Commons. It’s actually music investigators (the plaintiffs) making that accusation first – that’s one of the things that triggered the raid.

“He is the first person in the UK ever to be charged with illegal file-sharing. “

Oh, not even close. We could cover Barwiska (although that’s a civil case). The uploaders to oink that police arrested as a result of this raid, who were sentenced a year ago would also probably dispute that.

The OiNK website was a complex computer programme created to help share music and audio files amongst a community of online users.

The oink website was a fairly simple website which accessed a tracker database backend. It’s no more complex than Amazon, or any other database-driven site, and is certainly not a computer program, complex or otherwise.

Members of the community would seed the system by uploading music files or leech from it by downloading music files.

Sorry, They would seed torrents, which are independent of the tracker or ‘system’. Likewise, they would leech from torrents, using bandwidth from other users, not doing anything with the ‘system’ directly.

To do so they had to register their email address and a unique user name, and make donations by debit or credit card to ensure full access and maximum usage of the site.

Yes, yes, and no. Donations were not required – this is back to the ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ argument above. Telling the lie that you HAD to send money, means there’s a minimum financial value associated with each user, which can be counted, which then leads to the money claims above. Since there was no requirement to pay to use the site, the rest of the argument falls down badly.

The technology used – a method known as BitTorrent file-sharing – had three main advantages: It broke files down into small pieces of data, which made that data more easy to share, giving a higher quality download in a shorter time.

First, that seems like only one advantage to me, and a nonsensical one at that. Higher quality means bigger file, regardless of protocol used to share, which means LONGER time not shorter. What I think they mean to say was “it breaks files down into smaller chunks of data (just like all data transfers do) which can then be distributed with a far greater efficiency than using any other protocol”

The beauty of the system was that each time a person leeched – or downloaded – an album from the internet, they became a seeder from whom other OiNK users could download the same album.

True, but only as long as the specific torrent in question was not only still in the persons client, but actively running as well, not permanently, as is suggested.

Early online file-sharing systems were so slow it could be more expensive to download an album than to buy it in a shop.

I would really LOVE to know how they came up with this statement. I suppose if you were on dialup, calling a non-local Point of Presence that was not free, you could maybe rack up some charges (7.9p/minute at current BT national call rates). Dialup (when I had it with blueyonder in 99-2002) would do approx 1MB every 5 minutes, and a 3 minute song is about 3MB. 15 minutes per track comes to 118.5p. In that way, yes it’s more expensive than 99c from itunes, BUT, it’s less than the cost of going to HMV or Virgin, and buying a single for 10 songs, its £11.80 – which is less than I seem to recall albums costing now, or then (and we’re not factoring in travelling costs), so another false claim.

But advances in technology meant OiNK users could download very high quality music files, very quickly.

Oink users, iTunes users, BBC iPlayer users- that’s not something specific to Oink. The technological advances are in broadband rollout and speed, bcause if you’re still on dialup, bittorrent won’t be any faster – would almost certainly be SLOWER in fact.

Ellis’ trial at Middlesbrough Crown Court was adjourned until tomorrow, for legal arguments.

Wow, they managed it! They managed an entire sentence that was wholly accurate.

You want to know what’s quite fun about this piece though? Since it’s a newspaper, distribbuted in the area of the trial, and which contains a severely slanted perspective on the case, including a lot of factual errors, it could be considered prejudicial to the case, and cause a mistrial. Nor is it the first time such action has happened in this case. Immediately after the raid the domain was hijacked by the music industry, long before charges were made, let alone a day in court.

Fun eh? I’ve sent a link to this to the News Editor of The Northern Echo, I wonder what his response will be.

UPDATE:i’ve just been informed that the Mirror is also running the exact same story Wonder what their editor thinks of it.

UPDATE 2: Just has word from Alan “didn’t even get my job right.” – nuff said really.