British and Dutch police today shut down the world's biggest source of illegal pre-release chart albums and arrested a 24-year old man in an operation coordinated between Middlesbrough and Amsterdam.
The raids, which were coordinated by Interpol, follow a two-year investigation by the international and UK music industry bodies IFPI and BPI into the members-only online pirate pre-release club known as OiNK.
OiNK specialised in distributing albums leaked on to the internet, often weeks ahead of their official release date. More than 60 major album releases have been leaked on OiNK so far this year, making it the primary source worldwide for illegal pre-release music.
The site, with an estimated membership of 180,000, has been used by many hardcore file-sharers to violate the rights of artists and producers by obtaining copyrighted recordings and making them available on the internet.
It is alleged that the site was operated by a 24-year-old man in the Middlesbrough area, who was arrested today. The site's servers, based in Amsterdam, were seized in a series of raids last week. OiNK's operator allegedly made money by setting up a donations account on the site facilitated by PayPal.
Cleveland Police and the FIOD-ECD SCHIPOL branch of the Dutch police undertook the raids, supported by Interpol, as part of an international investigation with anti-piracy investigators from IFPI and BPI.
OiNK used the BitTorrent peer-to-peer technology to distribute music. Torrent sites such as OiNK act as a library for torrent files.
OiNK operated an exclusive membership scheme by which users were only invited to join the site if they could prove that they had music to offer. They were encouraged to distribute recordings in the torrent file format with other OiNK members, and have to keep posting such music to the site to maintain their membership.
Once an album had been posted on the OiNK website, the users that download that music then passed the content to other websites, forums and blogs, where multiple copies were made.
Within a few hours of a popular pre-release track being posted on the OiNK site, hundreds of copies can be found further down the illegal online supply chain.
The recording industry says that the closure of the site is an important victory in the industry's bid to tackle copyright theft.
Jeremy Banks, Head of the IFPI's Internet Anti-Piracy Unit, said: "OiNK was central to the illegal distribution of pre-release music online. This was not a case of friends sharing music for pleasure. This was a worldwide network that got hold of music they did not own the rights to and posted it online."