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January 15, 2010 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Alan Ellis, ex-admin of OiNK's Pink Palace, was acquitted by a Teesside Crown Court jury yesterday.

British law enforcement took down the popular music sharing site in October 2007 and Ellis was charged with conspiracy to defraud the music industry in 2008. The trial began on January 5th and lasted until January 15th.

OiNK previously on MeFi:
Shutdown
Trent Reznor the OiNK fan
posted by starzero (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Woooo! Congrats, Alan!

I'm really happy for him. The file sharing doesn't need any more martyrs.

R.I.P, OPP.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:35 PM on January 15, 2010


Wow, I got to post about beer *and* Oink on MetaFilter today. If only every day were like today.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:37 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This will be used by lobbyists as proof that the laws need to be more draconian.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:39 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


When they took Oink down, all it allowed for was people to start over and make things better. I found OINK really unorganized and like gazelle x10 more.
posted by mattsweaters at 5:45 PM on January 15, 2010


Yay!
Oink, I miss you so!
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 5:47 PM on January 15, 2010


Forgive me if I seem stupid, but I am. Ellis was accused of a crime relating to a website he had set up. He has been acquitted. So in the eyes of the law there was no crime. Yet the website is gone. Ain't coming back, either.

If this means - which it certainly appears to - that the UK legal system specifically, as this case very clearly demonstrates, can be trivially used by the powerful to thwart those who they happen to dislike, even though no crime has been committed, in what way can the proposition 'the legal system should be respected' be defended?

I'd be interested to hear thoughts from UK lawyer types on this. To a layman it looks like a blatant miscarriage of justice. What happens next?
posted by motty at 5:52 PM on January 15, 2010 [14 favorites]


I don't think Oink will be coming back, due to many of the faithful moving on to a couple of the replacements.

Congratulations to Mr. Ellis.
posted by nickheer at 5:56 PM on January 15, 2010


The problem isn't so simple. The website only allowed other users to connect to each other to pass music to one another, so nothing illegal was technically stored on the website. You can't look at this case as simple as a black and white white crime.
posted by mattsweaters at 5:57 PM on January 15, 2010


"If this means - which it certainly appears to - that the UK legal system specifically, as this case very clearly demonstrates, can be trivially used by the powerful to thwart those who they happen to dislike, even though no crime has been committed, in what way can the proposition 'the legal system should be respected' be defended?"

That Ellis was not found guilty of criminal conspiracy to defraud record companies does not mean that no crime was committed—criminal infringement of copyright certainly was, at least under US law. I don't know UK law well enough to speak to that. What this means is that folks who start up similar services will not feel like they are liable under this criminal statute.

It's a finer parsing, but nuance and fine parsings are pretty much required for any copyright discussion.
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that a person is acquitted of an accused crime does not mean that no crime was committed. It means that that particular person has not been convicted of having committed the specific crime or crimes for which he was prosecuted.
posted by The World Famous at 6:10 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally get your point, mattsweaters, in terms of the Legal Offsite Backup (and how can I locate one) element of the issue. I was mainly asking about the Law Is An Ass part.

I'm a dreadful anarchist, much as part of me wants to be one, because there are loads of things about the law, like not being able to randomly beat people up, murder them, rob them, rape them and so on, which I am actually quite keen on. So when the legal system brings itself as a whole into blatant disrepute, as this case appears to epitomise, I get cranky.

It's not so much that the case was not clear cut as that it was blatantly obvious that there was no case in the first place, just rich and powerful elements losing out to facts of technological change and abusing their power to implement their will outside the law, using the law as their mechanism. So how and why did this happen? More importantly, what is the law, as profession and estate, planning to do about it?

Anyone?
posted by motty at 6:16 PM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


So how and why did this happen?

Well, basically, the law was broken, many many many times. People stole stuff they were supposed to pay for.

Look, I get the whole file-sharing thing, I do it all the time. And I get that a guy who sets up a site like this isn't necessarily committing a crime. But the people sharing the files? Under current laws, yes, they are committing a crime. The fact that it is difficult to catch them all does not somehow make it not a crime. Yes, they are taking away profits from people who want to sell that music for money.

That is why this happened. I really think, if we want to have grown-up discussions about these things, we need to accept those basic facts.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:24 PM on January 15, 2010


nickheer: I don't think Oink will be coming back, due to many of the faithful moving on to a couple of the replacements.

I don't think anyone would hesitate to return to Oink, regardless of what other sites they may have started using in the mean time.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:24 PM on January 15, 2010


That is so, The World Famous, but where the crime in question is essentially 'setting up a given website', and it is found, in law, that this was not after all a crime, it is hard to understand at what point the word 'justice' applies to anything that has gone on, especially when the website in question no longer exists as a direct result of the specific legal proceedings in which the individual who set up the website in question was not found guilty of any crime.

Obviously, I am just a layman, but there is stuff here I am not getting.
posted by motty at 6:27 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that a person is acquitted of an accused crime does not mean that no crime was committed.

Likewise, the fact that a rich company successfully shut down a guy they didn't like does not mean a crime was committed.
posted by DU at 6:28 PM on January 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


Obligatory techdirt linky.

> You can't look at this case as simple as a black and white white crime.

I suppose you're right there...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:33 PM on January 15, 2010


Look, I get the whole file-sharing thing, I do it all the time. And I get that a guy who sets up a site like this isn't necessarily committing a crime.
With you so far.

But the people sharing the files? Under current laws, yes, they are committing a crime.
It's arguable where exactly the line is but yes, broadly speaking this is true.

The fact that it is difficult to catch them all does not somehow make it not a crime.
Ayup.

Yes, they are taking away profits from people who want to sell that music for money.
One of these things is not like the others. This is at best unproven at worst exactly wrong and most likely unprovable entirely.
posted by Skorgu at 6:52 PM on January 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


I guess the point I was trying to make is the situation is tricky and although he may not have been convicted, it is mostly because our laws have never had to deal with something like this before. I guarantee we'll be seeing legislature in the future to deal with this issue.

A huge argument is that what he did with OINK is no different that what google does. If google points you towards something illegal, are they responsible as well?
posted by mattsweaters at 7:06 PM on January 15, 2010


Let's see, mattsweaters.

I do something illegal in territory X as a result of search engine Y, 'search engine' being understood in the broad sense including, for now, Oink at one end and Google at the other.

Option 1: I am liable. $20, same as in town as always and everywhere, or near offer according to your local legal system.

Option 2: I am still liable, but Y is also liable, and can in fact no longer function unless it is constantly aware of the minute specifications of the law not just in territory X but - the internet being global - all current and potential future territories forever.

Problem is, even if option 2 does seem to make more broad sense to you than option 1, you're either going to end up with Super Secret Search Engine Z, which you can't prosecute, because although it exists, there is no entity to prosecute, or, alternatively, the end of the search engine as viable entity.

As stated above, I am stupid. This is probably why I am not seeing the advantages, on any level, of option 2. Yet the Powers That Be, so far as evidence such as the Ellis case would indicate, are keen advocates of option 2.

What are the advantages of option 2?
posted by motty at 7:23 PM on January 15, 2010


When they took Oink down, all it allowed for was people to start over and make things better. I found OINK really unorganized and like gazelle x10 more.

Yes it's hard to say if shutting down major BitTorrent trackers has had any real effect on the BitTorrent scene in the long term. Oink's shutting down directly led to What and Waffles being started, and today both of those sites have more content than Oink's did in its prime. Plus there are dozens of other private trackers that specialize in music or specific genres of music, not to mention all of the general public and private trackers that also host music torrents. More new trackers are created every year than are shut down (for legal or other reasons), and when sites do shut down their users just go somewhere else to do the same thing.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:35 PM on January 15, 2010


Spotify coming along has really filled 80% of the hole left by OiNK for me, and it's legal to boot.
posted by bonaldi at 8:01 PM on January 15, 2010


burnmp3s: "when sites do shut down their users just go somewhere else to do the same thing."

And importantly: they bring the exact same content the previous venue had to the new venue.
posted by idiopath at 8:09 PM on January 15, 2010


Yeah I used to use a tv torrents site like crazy, but with legal options like hulu I almost never use it anymore.
posted by mattsweaters at 8:10 PM on January 15, 2010


> I don't think anyone would hesitate to return to Oink, regardless of what other sites they may have started using in the mean time.

Especially if they could restore the ratios. Oink was adored by it's userbase, something that has endured despite being shut down.
posted by saturnine at 8:17 PM on January 15, 2010


I wouldn't go back to OINK. It's out of date, the layout wasn't that great, and private communities are at their best when they're small and growing.
posted by mattsweaters at 8:27 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's sad to see a good site go down, but it's like a pack of wolves eating a fawn. Yes, it's a tragedy on a small scale, but it's selection pressure that makes the deer stronger as a species. Without the shutdown of Napster we never would've had the robust, highly efficient global distribution network that exists today. So keep shutting them down, please, so that one day they will rule the galaxy.
posted by mullingitover at 9:17 PM on January 15, 2010


The problem with forcing a popular activity underground is that lots of time and money gets invested trying to make it easier to engage in that illicit activity online. You end up with a vast 'darknet' that governments and law enforcement can't crack.

And while the vast majority of people engaged in it might be doing relatively innocuous stuff like downloading videogames and music, the infrastructure is also available for people engaging in much less savory activity like child porn distribution or what have you.
posted by empath at 9:27 PM on January 15, 2010


I do something illegal in territory X as a result of search engine Y, 'search engine' being understood in the broad sense including, for now, Oink at one end and Google at the other.

you know, i've been with you this entire thread, except for this. speaking only for myself, I find the argument that bittorrent sites which host their own trackers are only search engines to be a really bad argument. it's not even true that google is just a search engine any more, but even if that were true, it's simply not true that a bittorrent site with it's own tracker is just a search engine. There are a million ways you can defend the operation of a bittorrent tracker, but the search engine one is begging someone to poke holes in what you're talking about. do everyone who supports torrenting a favor and stop using that argument, please.

the flaw in that logic is as follows: the google search engine archives links to existing material. before it expanded into the empire it currently is, it neither hosted nor allowed anyone to advertise their material. it simply cataloged what was there and let you search a database for instances of words. (yes, i'm simplifying their algorithms.) what a bittorrent site that hosts its own tracker does is it gives someone a dedicated space to advertise the content they're sharing and facilitates an entire network of people to specifically access and transfer that shared material between each other. if you get into ratio sites, you get even further away from google because they restrict access if you don't share enough. this is not remotely like what google does, because the network of people and the ability to share the material does not exist pre-torrent-site. it does not exist in this form without the tracker and the site. if google stopped doing search engine stuff the web would still exist and everything it used to help you search for would still be there for you in exactly the same form.

no, what a site that hosts its own tracker is rather closer to is google's ad service. it automates someone saying "hey, i'm over here if you want this!" and directs you to where they're serving that thing so you can download from them. and if someone contacts google about an ad for an illegal product, they investigate and pull it if the ad is actually problematic. if you simply don't want that product run on your site, they pull it from your rotation. they pull that stuff all the time for a whole bunch of reasons, and one of those reasons is because they are in fact liable.

again, please avoid the google comparisons. it's basically begging to be shot down in flames.
posted by shmegegge at 9:42 PM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Of course there is holes in the google argument, you could nitpick it and argue over a can of beans all day about it if you'd like. The reason I mentioned it was because it brings up an important question that will need to be addressed within the laws of piracy..

"Is it legal to point to or facilitate access to people in order for them to download copy-written materials?"
posted by mattsweaters at 10:00 PM on January 15, 2010


Of course there is holes in the google argument, you could nitpick it and argue over a can of beans all day about it if you'd like. The reason I mentioned it was because it brings up an important question that will need to be addressed within the laws of piracy..

"Is it legal to point to or facilitate access to people in order for them to download copy-written materials?"


You know, I had to go look upthread for what you were talking about, because I didn't even realize you had mentioned google at all. but since you have, let's look at what you said:

A huge argument is that what he did with OINK is no different that what google does.

which, hey, if that's not what you're saying, then great. I'm operating under the assumption that what you said right there was what you said, but if that's not what you said then bully. 'cause we can throw "plate of beans" around as if it made some biting point, but at the end of the day I'm just glad neither of us thinks that "oink is no different than what google does" is actually true.
posted by shmegegge at 10:11 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Spotify coming along has really filled 80% of the hole left by OiNK for me, and it's legal to boot."

This. Actually delivering what customers want has done more to diminish piracy than anything the legal teams have come up with. It's a shame the industry is so developmentally disabled that they not only failed to anticipate this, but refused to acknowledge reality for well over a decade.
posted by mullingitover at 10:19 PM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I get that a guy who sets up a site like this isn't necessarily committing a crime.

Actually, under US law the person running the site can be found guilty of contributory infringement if it can be shown that he was aware that the site was being used by other people to commit direct infringement (and didn't take steps to remove the infringing material), despite the fact that he had no direct involvement with uploading or downloading and there was never a single mp3 on his server. Gary Fung of Isohunt recently learned that lesson the painful way.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:22 PM on January 15, 2010


Sometimes I write things fast on here between work things and aren't always as clear as I'd like. I just wanted to bring up the question of whether its legal if you don't actually host any media.
posted by mattsweaters at 10:24 PM on January 15, 2010


(Not to imply that US law applies in this case, since he was a UK citizen.)
posted by Rhomboid at 10:24 PM on January 15, 2010



That is why this happened. I really think, if we want to have grown-up discussions about these things, we need to accept those basic facts.


Sure. Yeah. Agreed. As a pirate I'm totally willing to step up to that table, admit my faults, and have a grown up discussion.

As long as that includes a long conversation about price gouging, middlemen, reasonable copyright lengths, and not having to buy the same album everytime a new format is dreamt up.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:45 PM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


mattsweaters: "Yeah I used to use a tv torrents site like crazy, but with legal options like hulu I almost never use it anymore."

Sounds great lets give it a... "We're sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States." Oh.

bonaldi: "Spotify coming along has really filled 80% of the hole left by OiNK for me, and it's legal to boot." Hmmm.

Well, at least we can listen to some music eh? Let's have a look... "Why is Spotify not available in my country? Click here to find out why."

Yep, looks like the legal options are still as brilliant as they've always been.
posted by markr at 12:17 AM on January 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


You know, there's a "piggy in the middle" joke here somewhere, but I'm too hungover to go looking for it...
posted by twine42 at 2:52 AM on January 16, 2010


Metafilter: It's out of date, the layout wasn't that great, and private communities are at their best when they're small and growing.
posted by tapeguy at 3:01 AM on January 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"while the vast majority of people engaged in it might be doing relatively innocuous stuff like downloading videogames and music, the infrastructure is also available for people engaging in much less savory activity like child porn distribution or what have you"

1> The infrastructure, as you put it, is very rarely unmoderated and uncontrolled. Last time I went to a torrent site, I didn't see a whole lot of child porn.

2> The fact is, the downloading of pornography is a victimless crime, whether its actual child porn -- which, by definition, varies from country to country -- or the plethora of legal porn online that seems to scream "young teens" and "lolita" every chance they get. If anything, the distribution of photographic evidence of real, illegal acts of child pornography is pretty self-defeating, especially if it's used to track down and indict the pedophiles and the pornographers responsible, rather than, say, allowing the FBI to engage in entrapment, where people are branded as sex offenders for life simply because they clicked on a link... or for posting pictures of themselves.

During my stint running a lot of the non-business dealings at LiveJournal, there were several incidences of minors posting pictures of themselves. I saw these images, of course, because I was the one who oftentimes tried to determine the user's age, and who took them down. Like those entrapped by the FBI, I went to the sites in question, fully anticipating seeing child porn. That hardly makes me a sex offender, however, nor should it make anyone else one either.

To be frank, I do, in fact, enjoy the occasional bit of porn. I find it occasionally arousing, even! *gasp!* And last time I heard, I had the right to enjoy it. I've downloaded torrented collections online... but do I know that none of those involved are minors? Truth be told, I haven't even watched a lot of the stuff I've downloaded. Of course I don't know whether any minors were in it.

And it's not just me. Maybe your parents popped into a adult video store together, in a giddy mood, and bought something to spice things up. Perhaps your mom and dad are child pornographers too.

Likewise, my wife owns manga, some of it rather sexual. Is she a child sex offender? Perhaps.

About a month ago, my wife got a call from an old friend of ours we hadn't heard from for quite awhile who had moved to Las Vegas several years back. At the time we knew him well, he lived with his somewhat younger boyfriend, and did so fairly successfully for about seven years before they broke up. So, it was sad for us to hear that the LVPD had arrested him in a sting operation that targeted gays who were cruising twinks. (Sure, the LVPD could probably make a few calls and locate about a dozen illegally imported sex slaves from China or Thailand with little problem, but apparently, it was easier to go after gays cruising for consensual sex.) He knew his life would soon be screwed forever, but he wanted a character witness. He said that one of the reasons he went to visit the teen in the first place was because he was worried about him, and wanted to try to find him a shelter or a safe place to stay.

Was he sexually interested in the minor? It's entirely possible. Was Governor Schwarzenegger sexually interested in Gigi Goyette, who he first started seeing when she was 16? No doubt. Technically, as a foreigner, he should've been deported, if not indicted. And what about your great, great grandfather when he met your great, great grandmother?!

The simple fact is, minors can be sexually attractive to adults ...and visa versa. It's part of human nature, always has been, and always will be. But when we start treating victimless crimes in the same manner as we treat clear examples of child rape and child pornography, and allow the creation of self-perpetuating, morality policing bureaucracies, then we not only start to indict and silence unwitting "criminals", but also unwitting conduits for such exchanges, whether it be LiveJournal, Facebook, instant messaging, P2P sites, etc. Above all, we also tend to convict ourselves, and move ourselves into that gray area as someone who, in the wrong circumstances, the wrong place, and the wrong time, could very well have all the basic qualifications necessary to become a registered sex offender.
posted by markkraft at 3:10 AM on January 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


hulu and spotify and other legal alternatives just serve to piss reasonable non-americans off. why do we have to try and split the internet back up into countries IT ALREADY CONNECTS THE WHOLE WORLD YOU FUCKS
posted by tehloki at 6:55 AM on January 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


well if spotify does 80% of what Oink did, either oink wasn't very good, or that 20% was what it was all about
posted by criticalbill at 7:01 AM on January 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Spotify actually pisses Americans off, tehloki. It is licensed to work in the UK and much of Europe, but people in the US have to circumvent their checks and lie to say they're in a supported country to use it.
posted by mikeh at 7:05 AM on January 16, 2010


Last.fm doesn't have everything that Spotify does, but it fills a lot of the need for me.
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 AM on January 16, 2010


Not to imply that US law applies in this case, since he was a UK citizen.

Being a UK citizen doesn't necessarily help.
posted by robertc at 6:04 PM on January 16, 2010


Metafilter: like a pack of wolves eating a fawn.
posted by 445supermag at 7:21 PM on January 16, 2010


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