OiNK Admin Accused of “Ripping Off” Users

UK prosecutor says donations, almost $300,000 dollars worth, went directly to Allan Ellis, founder of the much beloved BitTorrent tracker site, and that despite claims that the site was free to join, a $8 dollar fee was demanded in order to invite a friend to the site.

It was back on October 23rd of 3007 that the BitTorrent tracker site OiNK was shutdown after a two-year investigation by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). British police arrested Allan Ellis, a 24yo man from Middleborough on suspicion of being the site admin, while Dutch police simultaneously raided the sites Amsterdam-based servers.

After more than 2 years of waiting Ellis is finally getting his day in court, and the charges against him are every bit as laughable as the notion that closing the site had any tangible impact on online file-sharing. In fact, no less than 2 BitTorrent tracker sites – Waffles.fm and What.cd – appeared in its place.

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace has charged Ellis with conspiracy to defraud by soliciting site donations that he says went directly to one of a number of Ellis’ Pay-Pal accounts instead of to the artists “it rightly belonged to.”

“It is clear that he received by way of donations personally almost $300,000,” said Makepeace. “Every penny was going to Mr Ellis. He hadn’t sung a note, he hadn’t played an instrument, he hadn’t produced anything. The money was not going to the people it rightly belonged to, it was going to Mr Ellis.”

I guess Makepeace assumes that BitTorrent tracekr sites are free to host, run, and maintain, especially one that by his own admission had almost 200,000 members. Should Ellis have paid for the expenses out-of-pocket?

“This is not about prosecuting some poor minnow who has taped a record one night and circulated it to their friends,” he continued. “This is about large scale, professional, clever, technical ripping off.”

He described it as a sort of ponzi scheme where members in turn added other members for a fee, and all the while Ellis was making a profit off the works as others.

“That is the beauty of the Oink website,” he continues. “It never had to upload any music itself, all it did was provide the facility of linking one person to another who wanted that music. It grew exponentially as members paid donations to invite more friends.”

Makepeace said that although membership to Oink was free, but by invitation only, anyone wishing to invite a friend had to make a donation of at least £5 ($8 USD).

Having been a member there from nearly the beginning to the very end that’d be the first I’ve heard of being able to buy an invite on the site.

In fact, I’m reminded of how the mods there would ban the entire invite tree of anybody caught either buying or selling invites to the site.

They even took one case to the extreme. A member was discovered selling invites on eBay for $40 bucks, so what did they do?

“It’s such a great site that some asshat was even getting $40 each for Oink invitations on ebay, until oinks tracked down the kid’s real name, address, home phone, dad’s phone, dad’s work address & phone, the kid’s own myspace, etc and then posted all the info publicly and scared him into quitting his ebay business,” one former member recalls.

I faintly remember that happening, but probably chalked it up at the time as another example of how strict the mods there were. Seinfeld’s “soup nazi” was a wimp in comparison.

Ellis has, of course, denied he tried to defraud anybody, and again, it’s laughable to think that he was.

Running a site isn’t free and it’s only fair that users donate a few dollars to help defray the costs. As for allowing users to buy invites I can’t imagine that was allowed for the simple reason that OiNK mods were notorious for vetting invitees, and would routinely ban members who tried to trade invites for other sites.

I guess after two years prosecutors had to come up with something to chrage him with.

Stay tuned.

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