OiNK Founder Speaks: ‘I Haven’t Done Anything Wrong’

Alan Ellis compares OiNK to Google, claims 'I am not making any OiNK users break the law.'

The man behind OiNK, an invite-only file-sharing site that provided illegal downloads of pre-release music and media to its more than 180,000 members before authorities shut it down Tuesday, has broken his silence in an interview with British tabloid the Daily Telegraph.

Alan Ellis, 24, who created OiNK more than three years ago, posted bail on Wednesday. He was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and copyright infringement Tuesday, as part of an Interpol-led investigation (see “Music File-Sharing Site OiNK Shut Down Following Criminal Investigation” ).

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” he told the paper. “I don’t believe my Web site breaks the law. They don’t understand how it works. The Web site is very different from how the police are making it out to be. There is no music sold on the site — I am doing nothing wrong.”

Ellis said OiNK is “no different [than] something like Google — if Google directed someone to a site they can illegally download music [from], they are doing the same as what I have been accused of. I am not making any OiNK users break the law. People don’t pay to use the site.”

While police claim OiNK generated thousands of pounds in revenue, Ellis, an IT consultant who operated the site from his apartment in Middlesbrough in the north of England, wouldn’t discuss whether the site’s users had made financial “donations” to the site. While they could contribute via debit and credit card payments, OiNK membership was not contingent on payment.

Ellis said that when he set up OiNK, “I didn’t think I was doing anything illegal and I still don’t.” He contended that people who download music illegally “also buy CDs as well,” saying that many of OiNK’s users “download[ed] music … to get a taste of it and then later buy the CD. But I don’t sell music to people — I just direct them to it. If somebody wants to illegally download music, they are going to do it whether my site is there or not.”

He said he was fired from his job the day he was arrested.

Meanwhile, former OiNK users are waiting for news on the legal ramifications of using the site (see “OiNK Raid Raises The Question: What Risks Are You Really Taking When Downloading Music?” ). Authorities have warned that “an investigation continues into the identities and activities of the site’s users”; OiNK’s Amsterdam-based servers have been seized by police, and could help investigators determine the identities of the OiNK faithful. But a police spokesman told the Daily Telegraph that it was still “too early to tell if we will go after individuals — it all depends on what we find.”

Ellis thinks that if his case does make it to court, it could set a very dangerous precedent. “It will change the Internet as we know it,” he said. “As far as I am aware, no one in Britain has ever been taken to court for running a Web site like mine.”

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports .