Bad news for people who like illegal free music has come this morning, as the popular torrent-sharing network OiNK has been shut down by British and Dutch police, according to a BBC report. The home of a 24-year-old IT worker from Middlesbrough, England, was raided, as was his place of employment ("a large multi-national company") and his father's home. OiNK's servers, located in Amsterdam, were also seized. The IT worker, allegedly the mastermind of the operation, "is being questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law," the BBC says.
OiNK was an invitation-only service in which membership was maintained by the consistent sharing of new music torrents. The more tunes you uploaded, the better your standing. Monetary donations were also encouraged.
According to The Northern Echo, OiNK boasted up to 180,000 members. The BBC reports that the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) claims that OiNK was responsible for leaking "60 major pre-release albums this year alone."
From the BBC:
A Cleveland Police spokesman said: "This extremely lucrative and creative scheme consisted of a private file-sharing website being set up. Membership was by invitation only.
"The site allowed the uploading and downloading of pre-release music and media to thousands of members."
An IFPI spokesman said: "Once an album had been posted on the OiNK website, the users that download that music then passed the content to other websites, forums and blogs, where multiple copies were made.
"Within a few hours of a popular pre-release track being posted on the OiNK site, hundreds of copies can be found further down the illegal online supply chain."
From Peter Hollo:
...I was thinking how this criminal investigation, if it finds anyone much, is going to turn up a huge selection of massive music fans with huge CD & vinyl collections, and what’s more a huge selection of professional musicians and DJs. Because many, many musos, and probably all DJs, are obsessive music fans.
I was going to write something up about it, about how despite its rather insanely huge selections, once I was able to check out its wares (well, its warez), I didn’t find much that I wanted, because I’m such a completist anyway; and about how most of the music I’ve “stolen” from filesharing over the years now exists on my CD/vinyl shelves anyway — eventually I’ll find a way of buying a physical copy of anything I like, and what, in the end, is the difference between a second-hand copy of an out-of-print item and a downloaded mp3 of the same, from the record company’s point of view? (Answer: nothing. The fuckerz really hate second-hand record stores too!)
And the strange morality of OiNK was something that struck me very much - enforced sharing ratios, enforced sound quality, stringent rules about formatting and information supplied; could I square that in my head with the illegality of the whole exercise? I’m not sure. Even the fact that it was forbidden to share leaked pre-masters and studio sessions, which in a weird way was actually reassuring.
And, from Jace Clayton aka DJ Rupture:
Oink didn’t offer solutions; it highlighted the problems of over-priced, over-controlled music elsewhere. Oink was an online paradise for music fans. The only people who could truly be mad at it were the ones directly profiting from the sale of digital or physical music. (Like myself! F%5k!)
Oink had everything by certain artists. Literally, everything. I searched for ‘DJ Rupture’ and found every release I’d ever done, from an obscure 7″ on a Swedish label to 320kpbs rips of my first 12″, self-released back in 1999. It was shocking. And reassuring. The big labels want music to equal money, but as much as anything else, music is memory, as priceless and worthless as memory…
About a week after I shipped out orders of the first live CD-r Andy Moor & I did, it appeared on Oink. Someone who had purchased it directly from me turned around and posted it online, for free. I wasn’t mad, I was just more stunned by the reach… and usefulness of the site.
If sharing copywritten music without paying for it were legal, than Oink was the best music website in the world.
Like many BitTorrent sites, Oink enforced share ratios. In a nutshell, share ratios mean that each user must upload a certain amount of data in relation to what they download. This feature encourages sharing. For example, a minimum share ratio of 0.20 (was that Oink’s? can’t remember) means that if you download 5 albums, then you must upload around 1 album’s worth of music, data equaling one-fifth the amount you nabbed from Oink users. If you only take (selfish leech) and do not give, or if you share, but not enough, then you eventually get kicked off.
Watching Oink work helped me to understand the structural intelligence of BitTorrent architecture. Oink, like BitTorrent itself, became stronger & faster the more people used it - scalability writ large. Folks wanted to share - to maintain high share ratios. New releases were highly valued. But users kept older releases available as well (you never know when someone will want your Norwegian proto-deathmetal collection, so you keep your bandwidth open). Whether you call it distributed tape-sharing (to use an 80s term) or distributed piracy (to use a 90s industry term), Oink’s use of BitTorrent & careful quality control did it elegantly.
Everything I could say has been said. Follow the links, especially the last.