back to article Police spent tens of thousands on failed BitTorrent probe

A failed three-year police investigation of a filesharing website, run in cooperation with the music industry, cost taxpayers at least £29,000, and probably much more. Figures released by Cleveland Police detail some costs of Operation Ark Royal, a raid on invitation-only BitTorrent site OiNK.cd. The probe was launched with a …

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epicphail

"But your 'onour, I would have bought the album but my money went on police subsistance instead....."

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The only real loser is the taxpayer...

Nothing new here, move along...

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Megaphone

gotta love the internet

The Internet makes its own laws. The Internet IS democracy. Any attempt to police it will always fail.

The Internet moves faster, is more resilient, and carries a collective might far greater than that of any bureaucratic institution you could ever hope to create. Governments, corporations and our mightiest institutions are snapped like matchsticks in its machinery. In comparison to the Internet, nothing offers you true freedom, and all the old media and governments are dying because of it.

You can lie on the Internet, but you can not stop people from calling you out.

I love the Internet.

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Google

Replace the word 'Internet' with the word 'Google'. It reads almost as well, doesn't it? And with the way things are going, it'll probably be true soon.

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What?

Google have an excellent web search engine which is only as good as the content it indexes. As more data dissapears behind paywalls and into private or institutional pay-per-access silos Google search will be little more than a blog indexer.

Otherwise they've got -

- a business model based on an adware web spam system

- a webmail system which does the same thing as Yahoo, Hotmail or umpteen other free mail services.

- a website logs analytics tool bought in from urchin, again one of numerous free / commerical weblog tools

- image editing software picassa struggling for market share in a saturated market

- blogger software - doesn't everyone have blog software these days?

- a payment / checkout service supposed to rival payal, defacto for web transactions

- a translation service copied from babelfish

- a social network platform "orkut" that no-one uses

- a failed social network revolution "wave" that no-one uses

Its the arrogant megalomania "all the worlds belong to us" of investment pumped companies like google that ultimately bring their downfall and unpopularity...

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I replaced it with "teacups"

That is all

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Megaphone

So if they can get the people running the sites

Better just let the ambulance chasing solicitors threaten people with the menace of the Courts.

Downloading for free is a little bit wrong.... ruining people's lives with disproportionate fines is very wrong.

Never mind though they did manage to get the DEB into Law. I guess the money was better spend bribing Peter Mandyson

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In other news

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/4380-piracy-cost-sharing-is-outrageous-according-to-isps.html#news_comments

Obviously the ISPs will just pass the cost on so now we can all help pick up the costs of policing the Interwebs.

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Ooh, ooh, followup FOI

Ask for the cost of drafting the two refusals, including any psuedo-legal advice that they took on it, and the names of the individual(s) who made the decision(s). Shine the light into EVERY crevice.

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@"Shine the light into EVERY crevice."

In that case we also need to add in all the wages (and running costs) of all these people (police, forensics, lawyers, all their admin etc..) who are wasting their time on this, when they should be doing something else more important.

This is after all a "three-year police investigation" therefore wages + basic running costs will take the overall costs of this way up. So its not tens of thousands, its into many hundreds of thousands and could easily be £1M+

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WTF?

small correction

Without getting dragged into the "but but but it is really not that wrong" type of discussion, it is one-sided to regard only the cost of policing and then proclaim that it is a pure waste of money.

Without assuming that all downloads equate to "purchases that failed to happen", or saying that there are no positive effects, it is safe to say that piracy does have a net negative effect on sales.

All those missed sales mean less VAT and less corporation tax in the coffers.

I'm looking forward to the next article that decries the effect of piracy on the already difficult budget.

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PTR

Totally disagree

I've bought many things that I wouldn't have if I hadn't seen or heard the prequel for free.

I've even gone out and bought entire back catalogs on the basis of a download (I even own all the Harry Potter books now!)

And there's no way I would ever have gone to a music festival (£150+ each time) if I coudn't have downloaded an album of a few of the acts beforehand. And I've been to separate gigs for the bands I've seen there too.

Thousands of pounds spent because of "illegal downloading" that would never have been spent without it.

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Disposable? Pick one - musicians/suits

[Irony]

But PTR your disposable income is going to the creative artists (via gigs) rather than to the record industry suits and lawyers....Don't you see how wrong that is?

[/Irony]

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@PTR

I'm sure there are some people like you, and others who'll see/hear something official or semi-official on the internet and spend accordingly - pretty much like the Old Days where many people got a tape of an album from a friend of a friend, and then went on to get into the band and buy lots of stuff.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people these days, who will just download stuff as a matter of course, without spending much (or even any) money on buying recordings or going to gigs.

How does anyone else tell which category a downloader is in, without walking into their home, and comparing what they have downloaded and kept with what they have actually bought?

>>"Thousands of pounds spent because of "illegal downloading" that would never have been spent without it."

'would never', possibly, but 'could never', maybe not.

Even now, there's a fair amount which can be seen/heard just by looking around relatively legitimately, and that could certainly be improved in the future in all kinds of ways - a sampler for a music festival, or time/playback limited free samples, or recordings of enough quality to give an idea what's out there, but not as good as paid-for versions, etc.

People who just wanted to get an idea what a particular recording was like could be catered for without giving freetards free-for-life full-quality recordings

Though no doubt the subset of people who /are/ only looking for something for nothing would find something wrong with any ideas that didn't fit with what they want to do.

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Less Tax?

If you assume that *some* sales are lost to piracy, it is unlikely that these sales will result in less tax revenue for the government...

After all, what do you think people will do with the money they save due to piracy? Burn it?

Most people will simply spend it on something else, something they can't get for free and so the government still gets their cut via VAT and corporation taxes, it just comes via different middlemen.

Most people i know who pirate games for instance, will use the money they would have spent on games to buy additional games consoles, accessories such as controllers and higher spec components for their gaming computer.

There is also no evidence to suggest that piracy has a negative effect on sales, it has been shown that file sharing actually increases sales as it allows users to try things they wouldn't have been able to do so otherwise.

The big losses are generally in the shovelware category, where people trying them through piracy wouldn't subsequently buy them or other products from the same developer/artist. Movie companies for instance, like to trot out absolute crap and hype it up heavily so millions of people see it in the first week before the word gets round that its crap.

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@Joe Montana

To an extent, you're right, though there is an international side to things.

A country which on balance actually makes money from music/films/games/whatever sold abroad really can lose out if people elsewhere just leech content, and spend their money on other things, or if people in the source country don't buy content but buy imported goods instead.

>>"Movie companies for instance, like to trot out absolute crap and hype it up heavily so millions of people see it in the first week before the word gets round that its crap."

So *after* the first week or two, when people know whether it's crap or not, the downloading pretty much stops for anything objectively judged (by who?) to be crap, and no DVD sales are made later on?

I dare say that downloading probably is higher initially and then tails off, but to a fair extent that's down to many people thinking for some reason that it's important to be among the first few million people to see something - an idea which cinemas also cash in on.

To be honest, most people could get a pretty good idea of how crap they're likely to judge a film to be by looking at the actors and/or the director.

I'm not sure I have a great deal of sympathy for people with no sense of pattern recognition or no wish to use what sense they have.

To use a parallel of your tax argument, someone's going to end up taking their money, one way or another.

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Linux

Crime fighting should not pay

...the whole point of "policing" is the fact that you think something is so wrongful that it is worthwhile that you "lose money" on the whole proposition. Criminal investigations and prosecutions are for those things that are so bad that you want to get rid of them despite the monetary cost.

It's Torts that should not be bothered with unless the money makes sense.

Big Content is really annoyed about how most cops would rather go after shoplifters, or murderers, or drug dealers, or terrorists. Society doesn't really value "copyright crime".

$60K? That's like what the girl sued for using Kazaa got stuck with just for sharing a single song.

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Stop

Still no loss

"On the other hand, there are a lot of people these days, who will just download stuff as a matter of course, without spending much (or even any) money on buying recordings or going to gigs." -- and without the opportunity to get it for nothing, they would most probably have gone without it altogether. So the industry isn't losing money because of these people.

"time/playback limited free samples" -- doesn't work, and is mathematically impossible to make work. I actually invented a one-time-playable cassette when I was 8 years old. Whilst demonstrating the prototype, I discovered the fatal flaw in it -- and subsequently, how the flaw generalised to *any* limited-play media then known or to be invented.

Times have changed, get with the programme. While you've been busy cutting deals to import rare shellfish for purple dye, William Henry Perkin has been inventing Artificial Mauve. And if anyone's "only looking for something for nothing", it's the recording industry.

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Safe? Hardly.

I think assuming that the net effect of piracy is negative is really rather presumptuous. Even looking just at front-line sales of music, the situation is now so complex that there's no real way of knowing. You can guess all you like, but no-one genuinely knows. The marketing spin everyone is putting on it is just part of the same reactionary, lawyer-led crusade that's been going on since before cassette tapes arrived. Some segments of the industry are desperate to blame outside forces; it's less threatening to large egos. But the truth is, we actually have no idea*.

Anonymous, because my work is pirated from time to time, and it's politic not to be seen having an opinion other than "KILL THEM ALL."

*My personal guess is that it's a fair bit better for the artists, and slightly worse for the execs. But I cheerfully admit that it's just a guess.

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@david wilson

I think you're on the right lines, but you haven't reached the inevitable conclusion. There are, I think, generally two classes of file sharer. There's the one that does try before they buy (I tend to fall into this category, most of the games I've bought I've bought out of respect for the developer after trying it, same goes for music, although it's a very rare occurrence that I'll download music or films these days) and you can say that they're not really lost sales, because most of the time they will indeed buy what they have downloaded out of a feeling of principle for the people that have created it. On the other side you have people who download everything in sight. They go onto torrent sites every week at least and just grab whatever's out there. This behaviour is probably significantly different from what they do when they go shopping (assuming there wasn't P2P), where they probably can't actually afford to grab much. I'd guess that there really are lost sales, because when you're like that (I was at one point) it's a lot easier to just download something you like and not bother paying for it. This is probably more true with the decline of physical media, and lack of desire to actually own something physical. The thing is, the number of lost sales is probably minimal, and as they get older and maturer (not to mention richer), this sort of person is more likely to develop into the first kind of file sharer.

The problem is that there's no way of stopping people getting free full-quality recordings, and it's going to happy one way or another. Let's imagine that suddenly the internet stopped working, do you really think that there would be no-one passing around memory sticks with music on?

The other problem is that the recording industry and the cinema industry are completely shooting themselves in the foot. I went to see Inception (eventually) the other week and at the start it told me to support the film industry by going to the cinema. I was in the cinema. I had paid 8 quid odd for my ticket. I'm not the person that they need to be telling, and realistically is 8 quid a ticket going to be sustainable? It's as if they've decided that because less people are coming to the cinema they can fix it by jacking up the prices. With the abundance of home cinema equipment and especially in the current economic climate, it's just completely unrealistic to expect people to value the cinema over a DVD these days, unless it's accessible and cheap. It has advantages, but people just aren't going to continue paying through the nose for, with most films, completely negligible advantages. I wanted to see Inception at the cinema because of the quality of the film (I didn't watch it beforehand either), but very rarely do I see any need to watch something on a cinema screen as opposed to watching a DVD of it with extras and bonuses (I'm also one of the geeky people who actually listens to commentaries on films).

Both industries feel that the best way they can retain their audience is by fruitlessly targeting people who are always going to be one step ahead. How long has their campaign against piracy been going on now? And how are sales looking? Are they increasing or decreasing? Is it directly proportional to levels of piracy? They know the answers, they just can't seem to take the fact that it's their own fault.

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@A J Stiles

Sure, there are always ways around time/playback limited samples, but an easy-to-use way of playing such things would be one way of separating the genuine people who just want to have samples to see if it's worth buying an album or seeing a band from the people who just use the 'I'm just checking out the music argument' as either a pretence for other people, or as a way of lying to themselves.

If someone takes the trouble to get round the system, even if that's just by playing a file in a different bit of software, then are implicitly acknowledging that they're not really playing by the rules.

Still, it's fairly clear from comments and votes here where many people really sit - even if there *was* a really good way of getting hold of all kinds of content for honest sampling purposes, there are lots of people who would be actively against it, since it would remove one of their excuses for freeloading.

I await all the inevitable downvotes from the people who'd rather not admit the truth.

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The word....

Jason Stathom on a billboard are a fairly clear indicator of a weekend spent somewhere other than a cinema.

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Grenade

Defeating limited-play

The flaw is, you only have to be able to play it *once* to make *any* number of copies.

No limited-play system (mine, BTW, used a piece broken from an old speaker magnet, carefully inserted inside the cassette shell between the slot for the pinch roller and take-up spool after recording) knows for sure that there isn't a recording device downstream of itself which will allow *un*limited plays in future.

The point is, it's less effort to defeat it than it was to set it up in the first place. (Doing it all-digital would require some hefty prototyping kit, and building something that emulated a popular soundcard, but stored the digital data instead of converting them to analogue; but nonetheless it's still doable in principle. The distortion introduced by doing it in the analogue domain might be tolerable anyway.)

The music industry have had it their own way for too long. Now the rules have changed: it's effectively a free market with competition, and they're being out-competed.

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Big Brother

I hear that more prosecution of Internet-based copyright-infringement...

...currently in the pipes is estimated to rake in about 200 million GBP per year for the "creative industries" (How did State come up with that number? Don't ask.).

I suppose it will additionally cost the taxpayer 400 million GBP (see I can make numbers up, too).

Hmm... that's 600 million net revenue, then.

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Grenade

So the real story is that...

the police have no idea how much time they have invested in any given case. Furthermore they don't know what other departments are doing in relation to thier cases. And they are quite happy to dodge FOI requests with baseless excuses.

Why am I not surprised. Bring on the cops from THX1138 with 'per car chase' budgets.

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@Thomas 18

Would you reckon the police should spend time (and money) filling in forms to record how much time in a given day they spent on one or other case (a phone call here, pulling files from records there) so they can give a precise figure /if/ someone asks them?

How does a traffic cop charge the time spent sitting in their vehicle or just driving around?

Do they count it as part of the cost of the next traffic stop they make - after all, if they hadn't been waiting or driving, they'd probably never have made the stop?

How does a beat cop charge 'keeping an eye out for someone' or 'trying to calm things down after some local tension'?

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Yes

I think its only sensible management that you are allocated to a case you should be told what proportion of your time to spend on it. As for beat cops, theres no reason not to put a GPS tracker on every one. So if you want to work out how much it costs to patrol the city centre one weekend you can just add up the number of people hours spent there patrolling around.

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@Thomas 18

>>"I think its only sensible management that you are allocated to a case you should be told what proportion of your time to spend on it."

I wonder how accurate initial estimates of time and cost tend to be for any given investigation?

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Hmm...

Ellis reportedly made £200,000 and the police only spent £29,000 (plus normal hours work etc...) in trying to prosecute him.

I wonder who managed to afford the best legal team...

If they'd actually managed to prosecute presumably his money would have been taken as "proceeds from crime" and they could have put the whole thing down as a "profit" rather than a "loss".

Any data on how much the successful prosecutions clawed back from the crims in question?

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Joke

Re: Income from "successful" prosecutions

Like the mother of 2 convicted for over $1 million? Pretty sure that's "nada".

RIAA, MPAA, IBPF, etc. have obviously never heard the term "can't get blood from a stone"... but they seem quite happy "beating a dead horse"...

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm

No pig on pig comments eh?

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Stop

Obvious really

I mean yeah, he acted unlawfully, or in a way to help unlawful activity, but that is nothing to do with the police. The Music cartel should've paid for that work themselves (and with a lower burden of proof, may have won)

But to prove that he was consiring to defraud ??

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Big Brother

ratio of overtime to subsistence

what I want to know is how many curries we paid for?

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taxpayer = slaves

Doesn't it suck that there needs to be a Freedom of Information Act to access information from a public institution funded by taxpayers money ? And what does the taxpayers do? They pay more taxes silently. They allow the passing of more oppressive laws so that they can break them and get into trouble.

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@George 20

>>"Doesn't it suck that there needs to be a Freedom of Information Act to access information from a public institution funded by taxpayers money?"

Not really.

Even if people have different opinions on what the rules should be, you do need *some* rules about what information can and can't be given out, since almost any organisation is going to have some information which most people would agree should stay confidential.

You can't have an unwritten blanket rule saying that a member of the public is allowed any information they want, since there are school/police/medical/defence/etc records and related information which are either private to individual citizens, or operationally sensitive, or both.

You can't have a rule which says 'anything funding-related has to be public', since sometimes giving that information could expose sensitive stuff, or wouldn't actually be meaningful without exposing sensitive stuff, and even having such a simple rule would still require some kind of Act.

If you *didn't* have some Act saying what people are expected to disclose when asked, what comeback would a journalist or a member of the public have if they asked for some information and were then just ignored, or told to go and screw themselves?

Who would they complain to?

On what basis would they make their argument?

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Thanks.

Cheers to the thoughtful downvoters.

Now, could one of them maybe explain how people can expect to have the right to access any information, and hope to exercise that right, without that right somehow being legally defined?

Or is it just that people have an idea of what *should* happen without any idea of *how* it should happen.

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Small potatoes

Really, £29,000 is not much. Compared to other misuses of taxpayers' money by the government, it hardly registers.

Good for him that he was acquitted, though.

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FOI

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of hoe bodies paid for by taxpayers money, have to be prodded with an FOI before deigning to release spend figures ?

It's our money you are spending, we have every right to know how you spent it without having to ask, thankyou very much.

Now, please change the law to make publicly accountable bodies, erm , accountable publicly.

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How about

sueing the music industry for miss use of public resources? for illegal snooping, police corruption?

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Be nice to see the records.

Yep, have to wonder what was said/promised and to whom to get the police to undertake this criminal investigation.

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Pint

Fraud charge

That's why the IFPI had to twist it from a simple running a "piracy site" ( I hate that term! ) to fraud, so they could convince the UK gov to get Plod on the case, else it would have been simply lawyer on lawyer.

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Don't believe it

GBP29k for 3-year investigation? I bet they spent that much for the first 3 weeks...

Costs for a 3-year investigation + trial will go into millions. The trial alone will go into millions.

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WTF?

Trial my Media!

"TV cameras invited to record Ellis being led from his home in handcuffs"

So the police knock on his door (or knock down his door), handcuff him, read him his rights, then lead him out the door to face TV camera so that the whole world knows who he is and what he has been accused off.

Stinks of an attempt at trial by Media. Of course the police would say they invited the cameras for the positive publicity for the police. Shame nobody though (or did they?) about the negative publicity for the accused who is later acquitted.

OK he may have committed a crime (or not) and got away with it but what every happened to Innocent until proven guilty?

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Big Brother

I was under the impression

That it was being filmed for one of those dreadful cop shows, and a year down the line we'd be watching some bombastic hyper-edited monstrosity called "The Tru Face of Piracy"

The Narrator would be like "a local police officer has had a hunch that someone in that house is downloading music". "You can always smell freshly burned CDs" says PC Plod, "Isn't it lucky that I just happened to catch a criminal during my first 5 seconds on the beat, as usual."

So right on queue it cuts to footage of his door being kicked in. Try as the cops might to look cool doing it, they inevitably end up looking like something out of National Lampoon's.

And because footage of what is effectively the inside of just about anybodies house can get boring, the show will cut to footage of drug dealers shooting babies in the face with RPGs etc.

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hmmmm

anyone else think its odd that the police are fine with trying to catch pirates (working for record associations), yet when a big telco actively spies illegally on people they couldnt give a flying fuck...

heads up oinkies; WE pay your wages, not the frikkin record associations. you work for US, not them.

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Boffin

Yes, but....

The copyright media pay the politicians who tell the plods what to do....

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Probably the last time

I think it's safe to say that, after this fiasco and faced with substantial cuts, no Police force in Britain will waste its time on acting as the record industry's poodle again.

I agree with other posters who have opined that the true cost of this operation must have been far higher than the £29k quoted. I would be surprised, after a three year investigation, if the true cost were not ten times this figure.

I wonder how many rapists and muggers they could have caught if the resources had been more properly allocated. I am sure the residents of Cleveland will have been delighted to know that their personal safety ranks below intellectual property protection in their local force's priorities.

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Flame

Operation Ark Royal?

Where the fuck did they get that name from for christ's sake. I sometimes think plod wastes hours thinking of stupid names for their `operations" to make them sound hip.

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