UK Authorities Charging OiNK Users With 'Conspiracy To Defraud The Music Industry'

from the well,-that's-a-stretch dept

Last fall, authorities in the UK shut down OiNK, a private file sharing community, complete with plenty of hyperbole over what was going on. In discussing how silly this was, we pointed out that it seemed like the only real charge here was “felony interference of a business model.” We meant it as a joke (interfering with a business model isn’t a crime — it’s called competition, normally). However, it looks like UK authorities are taking it seriously. They’re going around arresting users of the site and charging them with “Conspiracy to Defraud the Music Industry.” Most specifically, those who uploaded albums before they were released are being hauled off — even though the UK doesn’t treat pre-release infringement any differently than post-release infringement. Other countries do have such laws, and the entertainment industry has long pushed for “pre-release” leaks as being considered criminal, rather than civil, offenses. But without such a law in place, it does seem a bit extreme to claim that anyone uploading a pre-release album is guilty of “conspiracy to defraud the music industry.” There was no conspiracy to defraud — there was just people who want to listen to music and share it with others. No one seems to be able to explain how this is actually a criminal issue at all, rather than a civil issue. In the meantime, we’re waiting to see if the police try to arrest Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who has proudly stated that he was an OiNK member who supported the site.

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Comments on “UK Authorities Charging OiNK Users With 'Conspiracy To Defraud The Music Industry'”

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PaulT (profile) says:


I wish the music industry would realise a strong message about their business model here:

The idea of having an official release date is mired in the past, in another age. When albums were physical items, record stores could only set aside a certain amount of shelf space for each title. They tended to give new releases more shelf space, so the industry concentrated on generating hype for a specific release date in order to maximise sales at the time their product was most prominently displayed in-store.

That is now pointless. One copy of an album will take up the same amount of “shelf space” as a thousand. There is no longer any need to maximise a specific window of time any longer. By delaying a digital release, all the labels are doing is introducing a window where the product is in demand, but unavailable. It’s completely artificial and a waste of time and resources as well as marketing opportunity (having a friend say “hey have you heard this album, it’s really good!” is still the best endorsement an album can get).

Rather than prosecuting the people who want the album before the “official” release date, why not let people buy it when it’s ready? Furthermore, I’d be interested if data was available about the ratio of fans who obtained pre-release albums through OiNK vs. those who did so and had the album on pre-order. I’d be willing to bet cash that it was at least 40%.

MLS (profile) says:

Right vs Wrong

Pre-release, Post-release…the distinction is irrelevant to those of us who happen to believe, independent of all the rantings against copyright law and dated business models, that using something knowing full well is being sold and not given away by its creator is morally and ethically wrong. The right thing to do is either pay for it or take your business elsewhere.

There is more to our social order than economic optimization. If someone wants to pursue a less than optimal economic path, then so be it. It is their right to be poor businessmen.

Yes, there is DRM and other copy protection methods. They are shortsighted and do punish those who are trying to play by the rules. Guess what? If you do not like DRM and the like take your business to providers of products that are not copy protected.

I daresay that if most who cheat the system had even a scintilla of an ethical spine, DRM would likely have never entered our lexicon.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Right vs Wrong

You again, huh?

OK, so what if I pre-order an album. The release date is 4 months in the future, yet the album is available on a torrent right now.

Since I’m buying it anyway, why should I wait for 4 months? Bear in mind that younger age groups are most likely to do this, so 4 months to them might feel like a year or more to us.

Again, nothing’s being stolen, they’re just circumventing an artificial wait period designed to allow marketing tactics. You may think that’s a little childish, which may be true, but how is that morally wrong (assuming the ultimate purchase is honoured)?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Right vs Wrong

It’s not a scenario. I did it a few weeks ago with the new Pendulum album, and before that with the new Portishead. The reason? I’d been waiting 3 and 10 years respectively for the new albums by those artists (both having delayed their release dates several times), and I was damned if I was going to wait another 3-4 months so they could “market” them to me. Yes, I own both albums on CD now.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Right vs Wrong

I thought that might be your response. However, this is nothing new, only the digital transfer of the files is different to what happened before the internet. My main issue is that the delay between creating a master copy of the album and it being available to buy is only for one thing – marketing. As services like OiNK prove, there is a market for many albums without the record labels having to spend money on marketing. Why make customers wait 4 months for a product they wish to buy, so that money can be spent on marketing (a.k.a. making them want to buy it)? Why not leverage this by making the digital album available to buy when the master is available, in order to promote the physical version?

Shutting down these services achieves nothing. As older services become outlawed, new services pop up in their place. There is, however, something that the music industry can do to stop there being demand for such services (if demand ceases, then so do these sites).

With the example of OiNK – the attraction to that service was early access to albums, and higher quality rips of said albums. Since so many people clearly want them, why are the labels not offering these services?

“your justification for downloading is purely a rationalization for what you knew at the time was wrong”

I have nothing to rationalise. I pre-ordered the albums I mentioned at least 6 months before they were eventually released. Weeks or months before the albums were released, they were available via torrent. Why should I wait an extra month or 2 for the product I’ve paid for, when I can have it now?

Since I was buying the album anyway, I see nothing wrong with it – morally or otherwise. I accept there would have been if I had cancelled my order, but I didn’t. If others did, well, that’s usually because the album sucks and the labels have nothing other than poor product to blame for their loss. It’s the same as if a friend got the album first and they heard it that way and decided not to buy – if a few listens is enough to put you off buying an album from a favourite artist, that usually means it’s a poor album.

Remember that OiNK and similar services target hardcore fans. By prosecuting them, the music industry is attacking its own customer base. It would be better to leverage the services to their advantage. I know you love to argue the legal position vs. the moral, but this really is a situation where the industry is ignoring clear demand in favour of attempting control. In other words, another nail in the coffin of the traditional industry.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Sanity vs Insanity

MLS wrote:

…the distinction is irrelevant to those of us who happen to believe, independent of all the rantings against copyright law and dated business models, that using something knowing full well is being sold and not given away by its creator is morally and ethically wrong.

Any society that criminalizes a large segment of its own population is, by definition, sick.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Right vs Wrong: Speaking of Ethics

Well, well. Bringing up ethics while discussing the dated business models of the RIAA and MPAA is a bit like defending the ethical standards of, say, Enron.

DRM came about because members of the above mentioned industry associations were looking for a scapegoat for declining sales. Internet piracy became the scapegoat without any real proof that it was such.

Newsflash: There is still no peer reviewed and independent evidence supporting that assertion.

It couldn’t be that the product being released was and still is overwhelmingly crap could it?



Spanky says:


For those of y’all suggesting Morpheus or Limewire… just thought I’d let you know that OiNK’s site may be down, but there are other places that have picked up the pieces 😉

No, I’m not gonna give you any hints or anything. If you really were a member of OiNK, you should be able to find someone who’ll tell you about it.

comboman says:

Non-disclosure Agreements?

But without such a law in place, it does seem a bit extreme to claim that anyone uploading a pre-release album is guilty of “conspiracy to defraud the music industry.”

That depends on where they got it. Most people working in the music industry (or any IP based industry for that matter) have to sign a non-disclosure agreement with their employer. Uploading a pre-release album would definitely be a violation of that agreement.

MLS (profile) says:

Re: Re: Non-disclosure Agreements?

“Violation of an NDA would still be a civil, not a criminal matter.

Copyright infringement still does not equal fraud.”

In most jurisdictions the contents of a pre-release album would likely be deemed to comprise a trade secret. While the trade secret owner’s recourse against the one who wrongfully disclosed it is a civil matter, in many jurisdictions it is also a criminal matter and can be prosecuted. Of course, prosecutions are the exception and not the rule.

Anonymous Coward says:

The argument here seems to be bordering more on “You committed an immoral act” as opposed to “You committed a crime”

There’s no doubt that music piracy is a crime. But laws in particular those having to do with intellectual property, are often arbitrary and designed to protect and profit a very small percentage of people – most notably millionaires in the “music industry.”

Is music piracy immoral? No, probably not, in fact quite a few artists actually condone and encourage this sort of behavior, as it gets their product out to more listeners, and encourages more people to attend their shows, which is where they make their real money anyway.

Honestly, the only person that has a real right to be outraged over piracy are the artists. I really couldn’t give a rat’s rear end if I end up costing Joe Ferrari a buck.

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