Pigs Do Sometimes Fly

on January 16, 2010 in Opinion

Flying PigIn a suprise result yesterday, Alan Ellis, who ran the Oink Bittorrent site was found not-guilty of the charges of Conspiracy to Defraud.

It seems that the record industry used the “Conspiracy to Defraud” law as an angle to get file-sharing prosecuted as a criminal rather than civil crime, unfortunatly as this definition from the FACT website shows, intention plays a huge part in the definition:

It is an offence contrary to the common law for two or more persons to agree to embark on a course of conduct which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions, will necessarily amount to or involve some third party being deprived of some thing which is his or to which he is or would be or might be entitled.

In this case Alan successfully argued that the site was intended to improve his programming skills, and that since bittorrent can be used to  distribute any files (and indeed has since been developed for legal commercial uses) the responsibility for the content shared lies with the people using the site, not himself.

The Oink site and bittorrent tracker did not store any copyrighted files and the shared files did not pass through the Oink servers, it also seems that all donations to the site were voluntary and intended to cover running costs not make a profit.

Since copyright law in the UK doesn’t allow for a charge of  ‘facilitation’  the failure of this prosecution will make it very hard to bring charges against website owners/administrators for running a tracker.

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