As the trial of ex-OiNK admin Alan Ellis continues, more details of yesterday’s proceedings have been made public. Ellis told the court that he always held the belief that the site didn’t break copyright law and that if the site’s users acted illegally, then that wasn’t his responsibility.
Following on from last week where the prosecution put their case against Alan Ellis to the jury at Teesside Crown Court, this week the ex-OiNK admin had the opportunity to begin presenting his side of the story.
Yesterday Ellis stated that he had initially hosted the tracker in his bedroom while studying at Teesside University, and used the coding experience to develop his skills in order to bring future employment possibilities.
Today more details became available, which appear to show that Ellis believed that he operated his site within the law.
While it’s impossible to say what goes on inside another person’s head, when it comes to the law the average BitTorrent site admin or keen BitTorrent user will be mostly tuned into the requirements of copyright and violations of copyright law. In basic terms relating to this case, the unauthorized copying and/or distribution of copyright works, both illegal under UK copyright law.
BitTorrent trackers such as OiNK do not distribute, store or duplicate copyright works, so when Ellis said yesterday that he viewed what he did as similar to how the post office or telephone company operates, i.e directing other people’s data (illegal or not), he clearly believes that type of operation is permissible under copyright law. Indeed, unlike in other jurisdictions, there is no offense of ‘facilitation’ under UK copyright law.
“I didn’t think the site was abusing the copyrights,” he said, and in the above context he was right. But if OiNK wasn’t abusing copyrights, that responsibility must fall elsewhere – at the feet of the site’s members.
“If these people chose to download music and in doing so were breaking the law, then that was their responsibility, not mine,” Ellis told the Court. “I never saw that I was responsible for them downloading music.”
While Ellis can’t be held responsible for what others do on his site, he was candid when it came to admitting that he made use of some of the material indexed by the tracker. Ellis told the Court that he spent a lot of money buying music, but had used file-sharing as a mechanism to discover new artists.
“From my experience if I download music and I like it, I would go out and buy it. I understood most people to have that view,” he explained.
According to Gazette Live, Ellis also told the Court that he responded “out of good will” to takedown requests received from the infamous Web Sheriff anti-piracy company on behalf of rights holders.
So, if OiNK didn’t break copyright law by not transferring, copying or storing copyright works, and there is no offense of facilitation of the same under UK law, why was the site shut down and why is this trial taking place?
Maybe because the BPI and IFPI knew that copyright infringement charges wouldn’t stick, they instead guided the police down another route, that of Conspiracy to Defraud.
Ellis denies that charge and the case continues.