Ah, a lovely bit of news that to help us start the weekend off with positive thoughts! A UK jury has unanimously acquitted Alan Ellis, founder and administrator of the invitation-only OiNK music bittorrent tracker. This means that his 2 year-long trial has finally come to an end – there’s no more room for appeal.
Back in October 2007, the OiNK founder and administrator was arrested, with the OiNK servers seized, after complaints from music industry interest groups the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). “21 Million downloads. 600000-plus albums. Â£300000. This was a cash cow, it was perfectly designed to profit him and it was as dishonest as the day is long,” said Prosecutor Peter Makepeace during the final hearings today.
Makepeace went even further to impress the jury. “We say this is a criminal conspiracy to operate a pirate music-sharing website. That facilitated the sharing of copyrighted music,” he told the jury, “This was a website specifically designed for that purpose. It was, one has to give credit to Mr Ellis, perfectly designed to achieve that aim. It was a smooth-running, wonderful machine designed for the purpose of doing this and achieving this at an extraordinary rate.”
Not even Grisham himself could come up with this stuff. “The money kept rolling on in. Kerching, kerching, kerching. He sat back just counting the brass,” Makepeace went on, “Oink is dishonest because common sense says it’s dishonest. It’s obviously dishonest. He knows it’s dishonest because he’s not stupid. He knows it’s dishonest to promote, encourage and facilitate criminal activity.”
The defence wasn’t shy of hyperboles, either. “In many societies he’d be an innovator, a creator, a Richard Branson. His talent would be moulded, not crushed by some sort of media organisation,” argued Defence counsel Alex Stein, “IFPI used this site. Their own members used this site to promote their own music and now they’re crushing him.”
“Maybe he grew too big for them, maybe they’ve taken a different marketing approach. I don’t know. But it was decided that this site should be taken down,” Stein continued, “All of us here are being manipulated to some sort of marketing strategy by the IFPI. If anybody’s acting dishonestly it’s them.”
Stein further added that his client was in communication with the copyright owners, and that they not once told him to shutdown OiNK. “He was co-operating. He was in communication with copyright owners. He was never told what he was doing would lead to some sort of criminal prosecution,” Stein said.
An important witness in during the trial was professor and economist Birgitte Andersenok of the University of London, who presented the results of a three-year study in Canada which surveyed 2100 Canadian households. This study found that file sharers tend to buy more music – online or on CD. She claims that the “try before you buy” element actually means leads to more sales for the music industry.
“It creates more market than it substitutes on average,” she claimed, “The industry is doing really, really well and they’ve actually done better than ever. If on average people are buying more than they substitute, copyright holders should be happy.”
Makepeace replied by calling Andersenok’s claims “nonsense, flannel, verbiage, garbage”, but apparently, it struck a chord with the jury: they unanimously declared Alan Ellis not guilty. Since there’s no more room for appeal, Ellis has won, and he has won big time.
BPI is not happy, obviously. “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,” BPI stated, “The defendant made nearly Â£200,000 by exploiting other people’s work without permission. The case shows that artists and music companies need better protection.”
This case will most certainly become a thorn in the eye for any possible future cases in the United Kingdom.
Sanity. They has it.