British and Dutch police have closed down OiNK, one of the world's biggest torrent-sharing websites.
British police conducted raids on the home of a 24-year-old IT worker in Middlesbrough, England, in front of media cameras. The suspect's place of employment ("a large multi-national company") was also raided, while OiNK's servers, located in Amsterdam, were seized by Dutch police last week.
The Middlesborough man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law.
OiNK was an invitation-only website which users could only gain access to only if they proved they had music to offer. Membership was retained by a strict upload/download rating system, which encouraged users to share material on an ongoing basis. Many of the sites members paid "donations" to the site to upload or download albums.
The 180,000 member-strong site was renowned for its comprehensiveness, with many full artist and label back catalogues being available for download via Bit Torrent technology. It also specialised in distributing albums leaked before their official release, a particular source of irritation to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the industry body who participated in the investigation.
According to police, OiNK had leaked more than 60 major albums onto the internet so far this year.
"OiNK was central to the illegal distribution of pre-release music online," said Jeremy Banks, head of the IFPI. "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."
The Interpol-coordinated raids followed a two-year investigation of OiNK by the British Phonographic Industry and the IFPI.