Takes only 90 minutes for a UK jury in a unanimous decision to negate more than 4 years worth of work by the music industry and the prosecution, clearing Alan Ellis, former admin of the famed BitTorrent tracker site, of conspiracy to defraud.
Alan Ellis, admin of the famed BitTorrent tracker site OiNK, and the first person to be prosecuted for illegal file-sharing in the UK, has been acquitted of conspiracy to defraud in a trial closely watched by file-sharers and the music industry alike.
“Alan Ellis was unanimously declared not guilty,” reads a brief message on the site.
The site was shutdown back on October 23rd, 2007 following a two-year investigation by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). However, surely to the dismay of both, OiNK was quickly replaced by no less than two similar music-oriented BitTorrent tracker sites – Waffles.fm and What.cd.
Since the closure authorities have tried to figure out how and with what to charge Ellis with, extending his bail more than 4 times until it finally settled on “conspiracy to defraud” last September, well past the initial deadline of December 21st, 2007.
After a brief appearance in court last month his trial kicked off last week, and it was quickly evident to many that the prosecution had absolutely no idea how the site really worked.
Prosecutor Peter Makepeace tried to argue that Ellis solicited site donations that went directly to one of a number of Ellis’ Pay-Pal accounts instead of to the artists “it rightly belonged to,” that he was was enriching himself at the expense of others to the tune of nearly ₤200,000 pounds ($320,000 USD) it said it found scattered throughout 10 different bank accounts.
“The money was not going to the people it rightly belonged to, it was going to Mr Ellis,” he said in court.
He described it as a sort of ponzi scheme where 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). Members in turn added other members for a fee, and all the while Ellis was making a profit off the works of 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.”
Ellis countered that any surplus donations were simply that – a surplus – and that he had no intention of profiting from the site. He said the surplus was for site maintenance and server rental, and that he had planned to eventually use it to buy a dedicated server for the site.
“This was just surplus donations,” he said. “The money had to be stored somewhere.”
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? Terrorize him and his family.
“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.
Ellis’ attorney praised the verdict and noted that there was no “conspiracy” as alleged by the prosecution.
“He didn’t hide in a back alley,” said Simon Rose, one of his attorneys. “He did it with what he believed were good intentions.”
Rose’s firm also called it a “resounding victory” considering it took only 90 minutes for a a jury in a unanimous decision to negate more than 4 years worth of work by the music industry and the prosecution.
The BPI confirmed their disappointment in a brief statement, and cite the verdict as an example of why the country needs “three-strikes” legislation to disconnect illegal file-sharers.
“This is a hugely disappointing verdict which is out of line with decisions made in similar cases around the world, such as The Pirate Bay,” it says. “The defendant made nearly £200,000 by exploiting other people’s work without permission. The case shows that artists and music companies need better protection.”
Considering that Ellis never left his day job, and had obviously NOT SPENT any of the money they found on luxury cars, or even a place of his own for that matter, it’s amazing they would try to argue he enriched himself at the expense of others.
Perhaps it was his retirement fund?