OiNK Investigation Seeks Identities and Activities of Users

OiNK, one of the world's most popular trackers has been shutdown. Now, in the hours immediately following the closure, the site is responding but displaying an ominous message indicating an investigation into the site's users has begun.

The message currently on the OiNK page is as follows:

OiNKHomepage

Many of OiNK’s users have been enquiring if their details are safe on the site. The message: “A criminal investigation continues into the identities and activities of the site’s users” will not exactly fill them with confidence.

However, everyone in the BitTorrent world will be familiar with the propaganda put out by anti-piracy organizations and many will be familiar with a similar situation a few years ago when the LokiTorrent tracker was closed and seemingly none of the users were tracked down. Fear, uncertainty and doubt – it’s all part of the anti-p2p strategy but it’s hugely doubtful that 180,000 users will be pursued, it’s just not cost effective and most are scattered around the globe.

According to whois.sc, the visitors to the site are split: United States 50.7%, United Kingdom 7%, Canada 6%, Sweden 3.2%, Germany 2.7% and Netherlands at just 1.9%. Although of questionable accuracy, these figures should give at least an idea of the trend on the site.

Clearly the statement on the homepage is designed to scare all the ex-OiNK members back into the record shops and not let them think it’s safe to join another tracker. That strategy has been tried before (You Can Click But You Can’t Hide) and it doesn’t work. Additionally, more and more people are choosing to protect their privacy with VPN services such as VPNTunnel and Relakks, finding that a small investment is worth the peace of mind in the long run.

So who are the players in this OiNK takedown?

Most people know about the IFPI – The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. This organization says it represents the worldwide interests of the recording industry with the backing of nearly 1,500 record businesses in 75 countries. Its main aim is to fight piracy.

The BPI – British Phonographic Industry is similar to the RIAA in the US. It’s made up of hundreds of music businesses and fronted by the ‘big four’ – EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner. Created in 1973, its stated main aim is to combat piracy.

The FIOD-ECD – Fiscal Investigation Unit of the Dutch Police is a worrying inclusion to the list of people involved in the closure of OiNK. FIOD-ECD is a Dutch government agency dedicated to chasing down people alleged to be involved in fiscal, financial and economic fraud – usually major criminals. With these people involved, getting access to records from hosts wouldn’t have proven too difficult – FIOD-ECD are not just another BREIN, they have some serious powers.

People familiar with the ShareConnector and Releases4u cases in the Netherlands will remember the involvement of FIOD-ECD. The case took over 2 years to come to court and the result was a complete failure for them. The admin of ShareConnector got off completely and a couple of small fines (around $350) were handed out to the admins of Releases4U for uploading copyright material. Additionally, FIOD-ECD failed to provide enough evidence to prove ShareConnector was involved in copyright infringement nor enough to prove that either organization was criminal in nature.

Many people will be keeping their fingers crossed that the progress against OiNK mirrors this.

Following a 2 year investigation (or 3 month investigation, depending on the source) which involved Interpol, Police are insisting that OiNK was a pay site. Members were given the option to donate but this insistence that OiNK was some sort of criminal network where people paid to be a member is clearly untrue but it’s likely that this is the reason the real police (as opposed to the ‘copyright police’) and FIOD-ECD are involved.

Jeremy Banks of the IFPI said: “This was not a case of friends sharing music for pleasure.”

Yes it was Jeremy.

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