Internet, record labels
The IFPI report that British and Dutch police have shut down the world’s biggest source of illegal pre-release chart albums and arrested a 24-year old man in an operation coordinated between Middlesbrough and Amsterdam. The raids, which were coordinated by Interpol, follow a two-year investigation by the international and UK music industry bodies IFPI and BPI into the members-only online pirate pre-release club known as OiNK. OiNK specialised in distributing albums leaked on to the internet, often weeks ahead of their official release date. More than 60 major album releases have been leaked on OiNK so far this year, making it the primary source worldwide for illegal pre-release music. The site, with an estimated membership of 180,000, has been used by many hardcore file-sharers to violate the rights of artists and producers by obtaining copyrighted recordings and making them available on the internet. It is alleged that the site was operated by a 24-year-old man in the Middlesbrough area, who was arrested today. The site’s servers, based in Amsterdam, were seized in a series of raids last week. OiNK’s operator allegedly made money by setting up a donations account on the site facilitated by PayPal. Cleveland Police and the FIOD-ECD SCHIPOL branch of the Dutch police undertook the raids, supported by Interpol, as part of a carefully-planned international investigation with anti-piracy investigators from IFPI and BPI. OiNK used peer-to-peer technology called BitTorrent to distribute music. Torrent sites such as OiNK act as a library for torrent files. BitTorrent is the most popular software for internet file sharing and OiNK was the best-known for pre-release piracy. The IFPI say that closed internet communities known as “ripping groups” often get demos, early mixes of commercial releases and promotional copies of pre-release albums in advance of release with a view to distributing the music as widely and as far ahead of release as possible. Each ripping group gains cachet amongst its peers for being the first to get new music and uses torrent sites to distribute the music as widely as possible. OiNK operated an exclusive membership scheme by which users were only invited to join the site if they could prove that they had music to offer. They were encouraged to distribute recordings in the torrent file format with other OiNK members, and have to keep posting such music to the site to maintain their membership.