Matthew Wyatt, then 17, of Stamford, Lincolnshire had been accused of illegally uploading 3 albums and a track single to the venerated BitTorrent tracker site.
It was back on October 23rd, 2007 that OiNK, the BitTorrent tracker site that NIN’s Trent Reznor once referred to as the “world’s greatest music store,” was shutdown in simultaneous raids by British and Dutch authorities.
Afterward, the site’s admin, Alan Ellis, and six uploaders to the site faced charges ranging from the facilitation of copyright to actual distribution. Ellis was acquitted by a jury of the former this past January, and several of the others accused of the latter have long since had their charges dropped by authorities.
Fast forward to today with news that the Crown Prosecution Service has dropped charges against another of the accused uploaders, Matthew Wyatt of Stamford, Lincolnshire who was 17yo at the time of his arrest back in 2007.
Accused of “distributing material that would prejudice the copyright holder,” Wyatt faced up to 10 yrs in prison.
However, his lawyer, David Cook, countered that Wyatt had merely transferred content to OiNK from a publicly accessible music site, and that copyright holders never claimed the tracks were theirs.
“At no time during the course of this prosecution did the CPS actually produce any evidence that the material in question was in fact copyrighted,” says Cook. “In a world where kudos can be gained through early leaks, and fake tracks consisting of live versions, white noise and loops are rife, we believed that this was a dangerous gap in the evidence. We also found it extraordinary that the copyright holder was never asked to identify the tracks as being theirs.”
Cook blasted authorities for acting at the behest of the recording industry and pursuing a criminal case against an individual which should have been civil instead.
“Every indication we had was that this should have been a civil, not a criminal, case,” he said. “I think their 11th hour decision not to proceed means that that is probably true.”
He also argued that authorities dropped the charges out of fear for having to divulge just how it came to be that Wyatt was targeted and arrested in the first place.
“It was noted that the CPS would not explain how they came to ‘find’ Matthew. The story jumped from having an IP address to knocking at the door of his house. It was therefore apparent that either the CPS or the IFPI had breached both EC Data Protection laws and the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act by tracing Matthew via this route,” he says. “We did request clarification, but the CPS dropped the case before being obliged to provide this.”
For those keeping score at home, this means the now 5-year long effort by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has still resulted in no convictions. and no less than two similar music-oriented BitTorrent tracker sites – Waffles.fm and What.cd – and counting.
The game of whac-a-mole continues.