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UK cops arrest six alleged BitTorrent music uploaders

Surprise new arrests in OiNK investigation

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Updated Cleveland police have today confirmed that six people have been arrested for allegedly sharing music files via the defunct BitTorrent tracker OiNK.cd.

Five men aged between 19 and 33, and a 28-year-old woman were detained "in relation to uploading pre-release music", the force said in a statement. Three of the arrests were made on Friday 23 May, and three on Wednesday 28 May.

All have been bailed without charge, pending further inquiries. A spokeswoman for Cleveland police was unable to provide details of which specific criminal law or laws the six are under suspicion of breaking.

The swoop comes more than seven months after OiNK.cd was shutdown by a widely-publicised raid at the Middlesbrough home of its adminstrator, 24-year old IT worker Alan Ellis. A coordinated move by Dutch authorities also seized the invitation-only website's servers, which were later returned wiped.

Ellis remains on police bail under suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law. His bail has been repeatedly extended, with the next deadline set for 1 July.

Reports of further arrests in the investigation emerged on Friday 30 May on the filesharing blog Torrentfreak. Today it cites sources saying that the majority of those arrested did not know Alan Ellis. It's claimed they have been asked to hand over details of their OiNK.cd accounts, including passwords.

Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act can be used by police to force suspects to disclose encryption keys and passwords. Failure to comply with with a section 49 order carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

At the time of the shutdown, investigators took over the OiNK.cd domain, posting a warning to the site's users. It said: "A criminal investigation continues into the identities and activities of the site's users." Many BitTorrent users had believed further arrests were unlikely, however.

Control of the domain has since returned to its owner.

OiNK.cd was reckoned by many filesharers to be the internet's most complete music source. It focused on high quality files and featured trackers for pre-release material, which drew it special attention from record industry anti-piracy investigators. ®

Update

The BPI, which represents record labels in the UK, sent us this statement in response to the news:

The BPI and IFPI worked with the police in order to close down the OiNK tracker site last October. The illegal online distribution of music, particularly pre-release, is hugely damaging, and as OiNK was the biggest source for pre-releases at the time we moved to shut it down. We provided the information to assist this investigation, but this is now a police matter and we are unable to comment further at this stage.

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