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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Could OiNK raid lead to a new wave of downloader suits?

Has the war on terror been replaced by the war on downloading? Yesterday the British record industry, along with Interpol and Dutch authorities, raided the owner of OiNK, a bit-torrent file-sharing site with almost 200,000 members, many in the United States.

The news led to rampant speculation about what, if anything, OiNK members have to fear in terms of litigation and/or prosecution for copyright infringement.

In the vast majority of cases, it looks like the answer is “not much.” The secondary target of the raid was uploaders who “leaked” new CDs prior to their release date, and users who paid OiNK via pledge for speedier downloading times.

Some copyright attorneys feel OiNK users who did either of those two things should definitely be nervous.

Others feel an investigation of American users is unlikely unless the U.S. Attorney’s office chooses to get involved, because British and Dutch authorities are unlikely to turn over OiNK’s server logs (which would contain user information) to a private American company such as the Record Industry Association of America. (The RIAA has instigated most of the legal action against American downloaders.)

One would think attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey would have more important things on his mind than grandstanding on behalf of the record industry. But yesterday’s raid will almost certainly have the effect of discouraging downloading – a clear victory for the industry.

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