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BitTorrent crackdown cops fail to pay music copyright fees

Six OiNK accused in court today

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Cleveland Police, the force that will today bring six people to court for alleged involvement in the OiNK BitTorrent network, does not pay licensing fees to legally play music in its canteens, it has emerged.

Rumours that Cleveland Police was infringing copyright law have been circulating for several months. Yesterday the Middlesborough Gazette reported the force admitted the transgression and said it had not decided whether to pay its Performing Rights Society (PRS) subs.

The PRS collects royalties for artists and record companies from non-domestic performance of recorded copyright music.

A spokeswoman confirmed Cleveland Police's position to El Reg today.

A statement from Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Constable Derek Bonnard said: "We continue to assess the position and are seeking advice to determine if we are required by law to spend a significant amount of public money, which we consider is better committed to crime fighting, in this way."

The PRS argues that police forces are required to pay the same as other organisations. It issued a High Court writ against police in Lancashire earlier this year for the same infringment Cleveland has admitted.

PRS said only 11 forces nationwide have paid for the legal right to play copyright music in staff areas. Action against the Lancashire Constabulary has been suspended while the parties attempt to negotiate a settlement.

Depending on where and how it it plays copyright music, Cleveland Police can expect a PRS bill of between a few hundred and a few thousand pounds.

Alan Ellis, the 25-year-old administrator of OiNK, will face Teesside magistrates today on a charge of conspiracy to defraud. Five individuals who were arrested following last year's raids on Ellis and OiNK's servers will also appear, accused of criminal copyright infringement for uploading new trackers to the site.

All of the alleged offences could carry prison sentences. ®

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