back to article UK BitTorrent admin acquitted on fraud charge

Alan Ellis, the former admin of music BitTorrent tracker OiNK, was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud by a Middlesbrough court today. In a landmark trial, the 26-year-old stood accused of making $300,000 in user donations from the invite-only service, which members used to share high quality and pre-release music. Ellis' …


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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Tom Kelsall

    One in the eye for the BPI...

    ...and the CPS and the Police. Wounds being licked all over the place.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Does that mean he can now start up Oink again and sue the police for over two years loss of earnings?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    And who, pray, will pay for all of this?

    I'd suggest the bill goes to the BPI - after all, they were the ones who instigated this and told some real whoppers on their site about Oink!

    AC for this, but mine's the one with the FOI request addressed to Cleveland Police....

  5. telecine
    Thumb Up


    What fantastic news! Congrats to Alan and two fingers to the BPI and the rest of them. HOW LONG has this case taken to get to this point/? And the FAIL in an epic style .....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    private police?

    "He had been arrested in a dawn raid by Cleveland police in October 2007, acting on intelligence from the BPI."

    So the BPI called their tamed police on this guy, no doubt after some serious lobbying to get it the political will, then and this is the unforgivable bit, they filmed it.

    It is one thing to make these cop shows which show raids on dealers who have a load of drugs in their kitchen or something, but it was far from clear that this was an open and shut case.

    Sue the Police and BPI !

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    It is now time for the court to award costs, £1,000,000 against the BPI seems fair.

  8. irish donkey
    Thumb Up

    So how long before a change in the law......

    Maybe with a retrospectic application.

    Well done Alan but with the money the BPI are going to throw at this I think you will be the last one to get away with this.

  9. Si 1


    Looks like the BPI will need to bribe the government to change some more laws to prevent this happening again.

  10. bexley


    Justice has been done

  11. Ally J
    Big Brother

    Watch the news....

    Anyone care to bet how long it takes for Messrs Bono, Sharkey, et. al. to start asking for non-jury trials in cases like this 'as the facts were clearly too complex' for the simple jurors to grasp?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Ally J

      Au contraire, mon brave.

      I think the jury very clearly understood the situation. They did was the Judge-in-the-RIAA-Pocket decided not to do in Sweden, listen to the actual arguments and submissions from the BPI. This is a verdict that shows, where 12 good men and true are involved, legal justice can be served.

      The full costs for the trial, and the Cleveland plod overtime, and the damages claim that Oink should submit, should directly be billed to the BPI.

      1. Colin Guthrie
        Thumb Down


        I think you missed the point of Ally J's post.... /me hopes you're not in a jury anytime soon :p

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge


        That is precisely Ally's point. Ally didn't say that the jury didn't understand, but how long until BPI use it as an excuse? After all, less people to buy off then, no?

  12. kerr smith


    This is brilliant news and exactly the correct outcome of the trial!

  13. keddaw

    The sueee becomes the suer

    Why doesn't he sue the BPI for slander? Surely what they said, right after it had been proven in a court of law that he didn't, is actionable.

  14. richard 55
    Thumb Up


    Well done on showing 'em. A shame that Alan was put through all this though

    1. Robert E A Harvey


      and, indeed, contempt of court. The judge should have fined them.

  15. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Operation Ark Royal?

    Seems like it was torpedoed in Home waters.

  16. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up


    Hopefully police forces will now think twice when the BPI phone them up and order them to raid somebody's home at dawn.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    BPI says: guilty even when acquitted in court

    "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."

    The case shows no such thing. The jury said "not guilty", so he is not guilty, so the BPI's allegations were without merit. Yet they persist. Defamation charges, anyone?

    I really don't care that other jurisdictions think deep-linking and providing search services can make the small man liable (but it apparently doesn't do that to google?), or rather, I do, and I think they are criminally wrong. No wonder the BPI likes them.

    1. Adrian Challinor

      BPI says: guilty even when acquitted in court → #

      "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."

      No this is just WRONG. He made £200,000 by getting people to register with his site. He did not charge for downloads. He did not censor what was put up for downloading. Just like Google in that respect.

      The BPI should be sued for damages over this, as well as damages done to his reputation and loss of income on what has BEEN PROVEN TO BE LEGAL.

      1. Richard IV


        NOT been proven to be ILLEGAL

        There's a huge difference. The prosecution didn't prove their case with respect to the charges that were brought. Quite how making money by providing exactly the service that was being paid for constitutes conspiracy to defraud is beyond me - surely they'd have stood a better chance on something along the lines of aiding and abetting or one of the other conspiracy offences...

  18. Anonymous Coward


    Am I the only person here that thinks this wasnt really the correct outcome? He was blatantly taking the piss and making a profit from running the site. Almost every single torrent on there was for copyrighted content, he was morally vastly in the wrong. Legally speaking, he's as guilty as goodle but with more focussed intent.

    I cant believe everyone here thinks this is the correct moral outcome?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge


      there is a distinct difference between moral and legal. This guy did nothing illegal. I bet you can use google to search for child pornography. Should we arrest the google owners? MSN will no doubt have links to bomb making sites encouraging people to blow up others. Should they be locked away too?

      They went about it the wrong way and paid the heavy price for it.

    2. John G Imrie Silver badge

      My thaughts on the morality of the outcome

      are neither here nor there.

      The BPI chose to fight this on a Legal battle field, more over one that they had stacked heavily in their favour.

      The fact that they are claiming he is guilty after the court declared his innocence speaks volumes about their real respect for the law.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Not quite.

      The moral issue it is not really what's being supported as far as I can see, it's the legal issue.

      The fact is, he did not provide the files themselves, it was entirely user driven. Had they found him guilty for the actions of the userbase, it would have had an earth-shatteringly negative effect on the internet as a whole, and would effectively mandate every website owner that allows user-generated content to monitor and censor all of said content.

      It should be painfully obvious by now, that this simply isn't practical for any site with a fairly large userbase, and I'm sure you can understand, this would be a "bad thing".

      While I don't dispute that his intent was very probably less than honourable, the fact is, this was still the best outcome for theat irritatingly vague concept of "the greater good". The BPI's mistake was going after him, instead of the actual infringers themselves who used the site. It appears to have been a gamble on their part to try to sidestep the difficulties in identifying the site's members and proving their guilt, whilst still making some money out of it.

      As a result of all this, I'm pleased with the outcome of the case. I just hope that people learn from this, and instead of trying to take out service providers, focus instead on those who are actually committing the acts of piracy.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As opposed to every torrent through BT?

      "Almost every single torrent on there was for copyrighted content, he was morally vastly in the wrong. Legally speaking, he's as guilty as goodle but with more focussed intent."

      So is every torrent through BT, and they are making a profit carrying that traffic. The question before the court is, "Is that fraud". As far as I can see, the answer is no, and the only reason for trying a fraud charge was because the police could then seize the money under the proceeds of crime act. WTF were they thinking, fraud!??

      As to whether its moral to run a bit torrent tracker. If you make it a crime to run a torrent tracker, then you need to go arrest the BBC, whose iPlayer was originally a torrent based player.

      You may not like that smugglers use the ferry to bring their goods in, but just because it's easier to go after the ferry operator doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

      BPI should have gone to court to seize the log files for copyright infringers using the site, then pursued them, but he was just such an easier target, and it appears the police thought they could use the TV to pre-demonize him enough to make it a sure win.

      This is the right outcome, even the most healthy outcome.

      It's just a pity that no business could ever set up in the UK if they may face a copyright claim, no Flickr, not YouTube startup, no MP3 ripping software even, because the police would raid their offices, seize their assets and shut them down on malicious 'fraud' charges.

    5. cannon


      the web site was every bit as Immoral as the BIP (RIAA) conduct their own affairs.


      # Sony BMG

      # Warner Music Group

      # Universal Music Group

      # EMI

      MPAA, MPA, FACT, AFACT, Ect:

      # Sony Pictures

      # Warner Bros. (Time Warner)

      # Universal Studios (NBC Universal)

      # The Walt Disney Company

      # 20th Century Fox (News Corporation)

      # Paramount Pictures Viacom—(DreamWorks owners since February 2006)

      And these companies are all owned by these few, these are the companies that dictate our culture by promoting theirs & blocking indie artists:

      # BMG (sony)

      # Time Warner

      # Viacom

      # News Corp (Fox)

      # General Electric

      RIAA Claims Ownership of All Artist Royalties For Internet Radio

      "With the furor over the impending rate hike for Internet radio stations, wouldn't a good solution be for streaming internet stations to simply not play RIAA-affiliated labels' music and focus on independent artists? Sounds good, except that the RIAA's affiliate organization SoundExchange claims it has the right to collect royalties for any artist, no matter if they have signed with an RIAA label or not. 'SoundExchange (the RIAA) considers any digital performance of a song as falling under their compulsory license. If any artist records a song, SoundExchange has the right to collect royalties for its performance on Internet radio. Artists can offer to download their music for free, but they cannot offer their songs to Internet radio for free ... So how it works is that SoundExchange collects money through compulsory royalties from Webcasters and holds onto the money. If a label or artist wants their share of the money, they must become a member of SoundExchange and pay a fee to collect their royalties.'"

    6. Anonymous Coward

      asked and answered

      "Am I the only person here that thinks this wasnt really the correct outcome?"

      Pretty much, yup.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Common Carrier Arc Royal

    He should sue the BPI for making a false allegation against him and the police for turning it into a media circus. Their comments are libelous.

    If Google was a UK startup company then the BPI would be sending the police after them, and the police would be releasing private details of Googles bank accounts, and inviting the TV cameras in to film the raid, in operation 'approved by the Queen'.

    He has common carrier status, they know this and the choice of name 'Arc Royal' suggests the police knew he had common carrier status even at the start.

    Just because he was an easier target for them to go after, doesn't excuse their actions, they need to go after INFRINGERS, not the family of infringers, not ISPs, not Blogs, websites who link to infringment, INFRINGERS.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    quite simply

    Part of the problem with the jury is they'll either not be technical enough to understand and could therefore be swayed by a convincing argument they don't understand, or if they are technical enough they're probably at it themselves.

    The same applies to the judges, although as we've seen with TPB some know too much.

  21. David 105
    Thumb Up

    BPI Unhappy = Bad News for us

    "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."

    Ah yes, the Pirate bay trial, where the defence was amending the charge sheet as the trial was underway, AND the judge was found to be a member of a pro-copyright lobby group and it WASN'T a conflict of interest.

    So they're disappointed that it wasn't a kangaroo stitch up and the correct legal principles were followed?

    Expect TDL(tm) to be taken out for dinner on a lot mor yachts in the near future

  22. Alexander Hanff 1
    Thumb Down


    I suspect the only reason he did win this case is because it was a criminal prospecution with a jury trial. I think the next move we will see will be for the BPI to sue him in civil court for secondary and vicarious infringement - a case he will find much more difficult to win.

    I woudl suggest he files for costs and loss of earnings as soon as possible so he can defend the next inevitable step by the BPI.

    1. Alexander Hanff 1

      Thumbs down

      By the way my thumbs down was with regards to what will happen next, not the judgement in this case.

      The BPI were stupid to go for a criminal prosecution, they faced a huge risk with a jury trial especially for conspiracy to defraud.

      If they wanted to win they should have gone the litigation route and vicarious infringement, it would be difficult for him to argue he did not benefit financially and would probably have concluded with a judgement against him with far higher damages than the criminal case would have got them.

      Thankfully the BPI went the sensationalist route and paid the consequences for being stupid - but as I said, I don't think he is off the hook just yet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Go for criminal libel

      If that criminal libel act is still in force, he should go after them hard. When the court says he is not guilty and they repeat a blatant libel like that in the face of a court decision, he needs to go for a slap down.

      The BPI would find out how little support this has in the UK. How many YouTube users think that Google should be arrested for fraud because users post copyright material on You Tube?

      Their position is undefended and it would give everyone the opportunity to discuss what Mandelson is up to with his 'Digital Economy Bill', AKA 'Ban YouTube, Torrents, MP3 ripping software, etc. Bill' and pretend that's somehow good for Britain and not just Mandelson and his yacht owning friends)

    3. Igor Mozolevsky
      Thumb Up

      utter failure of logic

      So your logic is that the jury were either too stupid or that they do it themselves?..

      The Fraud Act 2006, if he was indeed charged under it, requires a number of criteria to be met, which of the section 2-4 of the Act could possibly apply -- did he make false representation, failed to disclose information or abused his position???

  23. Uk_Gadget

    Was He Taking The...

    ...Piss. Perhaps he should run for Prime Minister..

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well I tried to post this on the original article...

    ... but they closed it to comments, so here goes one last time:

    "A man who ran an illegal pirate music site which allowed 21 million downloads had almost $300,000 in his bank account when police raided his home"

    So, there we have it, the *real* market value of 21 million downloads (presumably each one being an entire album) is actually about 1.4 cents per download/album, or 0.9 of our British pennies.

    That's right, an entire album is worth only a fraction of a penny in ad revenue and donations, and we're to believe the industry is losing £1.7billion? Did someone order a reality check?


    I just saw a BBC News hit piece about how his site made him £20k in savings, and they were making him out to be some kind of despicably wealthy arch criminal. £20k is toilet paper to the people who run this country, but if the prols are ever caught with that much money in one place, god help them.

    It stinks to high heaven.

  25. Lex 2

    Register - Could you please pass on a message

    World -> BPI (in fact *PI)

    Absolutely no member of the public (at least none I have ever met) like you, the work you are doing, or have any respect for your organisation.

    Even Stephen Fry is his latest podcast has listed his dislike to the *PI actions.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    "intelligence from the BPI"

    The BPI clearly have no intelligence :

    "This ... is out of line with decisions made in similar cases around the world"

    If they had any intelligence, they would know that other countries' laws don't apply in the UK.

    1. heyrick Silver badge


      Along with the RIAA nonsense and the shouting vocal "labels" they're pissing all over our existing copyright laws, criminalising millions, and all this to support their own business and profits... and astonishingly the various governments are buying into this. I bet they thought they'd become near-omnipotent.

      Whether or not the accused is/was morally repungant is neither here nor there. The BPI aren't angels and they aren't doing anything in OUR interests, only their own. It is time they got bitchsplapped. Our laws exist to provide a framework of sanity in our civilisation. They don't exist to be trampled on by greedy wealthy corporations with vested interests.

    2. Chris007

      @ Register - Could you please pass on a message

      Well if Stephen Fry dislikes the *PI actions then it really really must be a naughty organisation and his diatrabe will no doubt lead to a revolution on the streets against it.....

  27. CareTaker

    @ dave 37

    This is the correct moral outcome. There is nothing wrong with making money from a website, regardless of its users use it, ask Mark Zuckerberg. Would you jail Australian poppy growers because someone took their poppies and made heroin from them instead of codeine? Do you prosecute road builders because people exceed speed limits? The fact of the matter is he made a website for the free exchange of music. If anything illegal was occurring because of his site it was down to the users. If he was to be found guilty, then Virgin Media, BT and all the other internet service providers are also guilty. Since they charge users to transmit data using their hardware and some of that data is transmitted illegally. I am generally opposed to intellectual property rights in most forms. How is it right that a musician can record or perform a song once and be paid multiple times and tell you how to play it? If a farmer grows a potato, we do not have to pay multiple times for it and there are no imposed restrictions on how to cook or eat the potato either. I also object to the TV (tax) licence for similar reasons. We pay a fee to the (taxman) BBC, who then play a song multiple times and pay royalties for each broadcast, a song goes to number 1 mostly on the strength of this. We are effectively paying the BBC to advertise for record labels which we then pay again to buy their music. I personally believe that anyone who pays their TV (tax) licence or subscribes to Sky or Virgin should be able to download what the hell they like, as they have already paid for it multiple times through subscription or licence fees, adverts and so on.

  28. dreadful scathe
    Thumb Up

    BPI? idiots

    echoing others as usual but while "The defendant made nearly £200,000" - yes, so? how much do you think Google makes from ads despite allowing people to search for torrents, warez, mp3s or anything else where the destination you are sent to may not be entirely legitimate? A tad more than that I am sure. :)

    Well done that court.

  29. kissingthecarpet
    Thumb Up


    One in the eye for the scum - sorry for the shit he's had to put up with though.

    Here's to jury trials (most of the time :-) )

    1. Chris007
      Big Brother

      @ Excellent

      You said "Here's to jury trials (most of the time :-) )"

      Hence NuLabors many attempts to remove as many trial by jury options as possible to simply a judge (or 3) who obviously would remain totally impartial....

  30. Stuart Elliott


    Excellent news, pleased for you Alan.

  31. Julian Bond


    "The case shows that artists and music companies need better protection."

    So I guess they'll be flying the Evil Lord Mandelson off on an all expenses paid trip to the Caribbean. He'll still be around no matter who gets in at the next election so keeping him sweet writing a few more advertorials for the copyright biz in The Times will still be cheap publicity even if he can't direct government policy to the same extent.

    Mandelson and Badgers? I feel sure Matthew Parris will announce the connection on Radio 4 shortly.

  32. Dick Emery


    I assume the BPI can appeal this decision like most court cases? I don't see the end of it yet.


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