The world’s biggest source of illegal pre-release chart albums has been shut down thanks to the efforts of three police forces and two of the biggest recorded music organisations.
The online pirate pre-release club known as OiNK, which specialised in distributing leaked albums online often weeks ahead of their official release date, was stopped after police raids in The Netherlands and the U.K.
A week after they’d busted the Amsterdam end of the business and grabbed the site’s servers, an October 23 raid on premises near the north-eastern U.K. town of Middlesbrough resulted in the arrest of the 24-year old man believed to be behind the business.
OiNK’s operators reportedly made money by setting up a donations account on a site facilitated by PayPal.
The site had an estimated membership of 180,000, making it the primary source worldwide for illegal pre-release music, with many hardcore filesharers using it to obtain copyrighted recordings for resale on the Internet.
After an album makes its way to the OiNK Web site, users download that music and pass the content to other Web sites, forums and blogs, where multiple copies are made.
Within a few hours of a popular pre-release track appearing on the OiNK site, hundreds of copies could be found further down the illegal online supply chain.
The recording industry says the closure of the site is an important victory in the industry’s bid to tackle copyright theft.
The raids were coordinated by Interpol, the European police force, and carried out by the Dutch anti-fraud team based at Schipol and Cleveland Police in the U.K.
They followed a two-year investigation by the international and U.K. music industry bodies IFPI and BPI.
Pre-release leaks are one of the most damaging forms of Internet piracy currently eroding legitimate sales of music across the world.
Recorded music sales fell by more than a third internationally in the last six years, and independent studies show that a major factor in this decline has been Internet users accessing peer-to-peer networks to steal music online.