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Thursday 25 October 2007
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Illegal music sharing website closed down


By Sally Peck
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 23/10/2007

British and Dutch police have closed down one of the world's biggest illegal music file sharing websites - operating from a flat in Middlesbrough.

Police and music industry investigators believe the site was run by a 24-year-old IT worker, who has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law. The site's servers, based in Amsterdam, were seized in raids last week.

Around 180,000 people were members of http://www.oink.cd, the world's biggest source of pirated pre-release chart albums, which leaked more than 60 major albums onto the internet so far this year, according to police.

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Users, who were only admitted to the private website if they could prove they had music to offer, retained membership by continuously posting tracks.

"OiNK was central to the illegal distribution of pre-release music online," said Jeremy Banks, head of the internet anti-piracy unit of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which participated in the investigation.

"This was not a case of friends sharing music for pleasure. This was a worldwide network that got hold of music they did not own the rights to and posted it online."

The Interpol-coordinated raids followed a two-year investigation by the British Phonographic Industry and theIFPI.

Pre-release leaks have become one of the most damaging forms of piracy for the music industry. According to industry figures, music sales have fallen by more than a third in the past six years.

Pre-release piracy is particularly feared by the music industry as it leads to unauthorised mixes or unfinished versions of songs.

Chief Superintendent Mark Braithwaite, head of crime with Cleveland Police, said: "While some might view this type of act as a victimless crime there is no such thing - as the cost of an enterprise such as this will be added to the cost of any legitimate purchases further down the line.

"This is big business - with hundreds of thousands being made."

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