Oink founder: We're just like Google
By Paul Stokes
Last Updated: 8:20am BST 25/10/2007
An IT consultant suspected of operating one of the world’s biggest pirate music websites from a Middlesbrough bedsit said he had done nothing wrong.
Alan Ellis, 24, was arrested on Tuesday as part of an Interpol-led operation to shut down a music file sharing website which has attracted around 180,000 members.
Mr Ellis set up the website, called Oink, three and a half years ago.
He was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and copyright infringement and has been released on police bail for two months.
Computer equipment and documentation seized from his home, his place of work and his father’s home in Cheshire and are undergoing forensic examination.
But speaking after his arrest he claimed it was no more illegal than search engine sites such as Google which could also direct users to illegal music downloads.
Police and music industry investigators have suggested that hundreds of thousands of pounds a year could be made by the site.
Mr Ellis declined to comment on whether users had made financial “donations” to the site.
Mr Ellis was contracted to work as an IT consultant for Virgin Media’s contact centre in nearby Stockton-on-Tees, but was dismissed on the day of his arrest.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “I haven’t done anything wrong. I don’t believe my website breaks the law. They don’t understand how it works.
"The website is very different from how the police are making it out to be. There is no music sold on the site - I am doing nothing wrong.
"When I set up the site I didn’t think I was doing anything illegal and I still don’t. There are 180,000 users and there has been an outcry about what has happened to me.
"People who download music also buy CDs as well. A lot of people download music on the internet to get a taste of it and then later buy the CD.
"But I don’t sell music to people, I just direct them to it. If somebody wants to illegally download music they are going to do it whether my site is there or not.
"If this goes to court it is going to set a huge precedent. It will change the internet as we know it.
"As far as I am aware no-one in Britain has ever been taken to court for running a website like mine. My site is no different to something like Google.
"If Google directed someone to a site they can illegally download music they are doing the same as what I have been accused of. I am not making any Oink users break the law. People don’t pay to use the site.”
Oink, which used a cartoon of a pink pig as its logo, was one of the world’s biggest “peer-to-peer” music download sites, which have been targeted by music publishers and police because they allow users to swap music for free.
Anyone accessing it is met with the message: “This site has been closed as a result of a criminal investigation by IFPI, BPI, Cleveland Police and the Fiscal Investigation Unit of the Dutch Police into suspected illegal music distribution. A criminal investigation continues into the identities and activities of the site’s users.”
The website’s server, based in Amsterdam, was closed down by Dutch Police last week.
Among allegations being examined are that more than 60 major albums were leaked on an OINK site weeks before the CDs’ were officially released by record companies.
According to users, Oink had a daily throughput the equivalent of five million songs and registered members were able to download around 1,000 songs.
Detectives are thought to be analysing the databases for details of the invitation system and members’ downloads.
Users were offered the chance to buy a range of branded merchandise bearing a pink pig Logo and the slogan: “Music so good it could make your tail curl”.
A spokesman for Cleveland Police, responsible the Middlesbrough inquiries, said: “It is too early to tell if we will go after individuals, it all depends on what we find.”