For those not in the know, file-sharing is a pretty big way of life for some music fans. Shawn Fanning pushed the practice into prominence in the late 1990s with his super-slick software Napster (maybe you've heard of it). After Satan's Lovechild Lars Ulrich bitched and moaned about the service, he got Napster shut down in 2000 (yes, that incident still pisses me off to this day, and Ulrich will forever be dead to me). However, 2004 saw the launch of a much slicker, much more advanced version of Napster: OiNK's Pink Palace.OiNK, as it was most commonly known, utilized a new, fast-growing bit-torrent technology for its users, opposed to Napster's rudamentary peer-to-peer technology. OiNK had a brilliant existence, only to see the British feds knock down the door of its principle operater -- Alan Ellis -- one fateful October day in 2007. Charges were pressed, Ellis was detained, and OiNK effectively died. Ellis, however, was cleared of all charges on Friday in a British court.
I must divulge that I was, in fact, a proud member of OiNK. I relished the site for its massive collection of music and its stringent policies on the audio quality of its music files. What Ellis had created was a very impressive database of music, fans and -- most importantly -- digital music nerds who did not accept MP3s with less than a 192 kbps audio bit rate.
In its run, OiNK users downloaded 21 million music files. OiNK was a complex operation, however, and it required monthly donations from its loyal users to help maintain the server costs. Ellis routinely brought in $18,000 in monthly donations. When Ellis was detained in 2007, British police found more than $300,000 in his PayPal account -- the bulk of which went toward those aforementioned server costs. Any leftover money went toward the purchase of new servers -- so any and all money Ellis took in from OiNK members went right back into the site. Ellis took care of his members and they took care of him in return.
Telling that to the Dutch and British police, however, proved to be a moot point as they charged the 26-year-old software engineer with conspiracy to defraud -- an absolutely bogus charge, yet the one the feds had to come up with. Prosecutor Peter Makepeace said about Ellis' OiNK, "21 million downloads. 600,000-plus albums. £300,000. This was a cash cow, it was perfectly designed to profit him, and it was as dishonest as the day is long." His efforts were lost on the jury, whose unanimous verdict of not guilty allowed Ellis to walk free.
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Yes, OiNK promoted criminal activity and allowed its users to download albums for free. This action, however, did not hurt the music industry -- which has been in a steady decline since 2000 -- as a whole. If anything, OiNK promoted album sales. Ellis was an innovative mind who created the greatest, most massive and highest-quality file-sharing site the Internet has ever seen.
Ellis' accomplishments live on, as two separate bit-torrent music sites rushed onto the Internet after OiNK was taken down, both hoping to become the tradition for file-sharing that OiNK once was. While that may never be the case, OiNK will always live on in infamy for those who were lucky enough to be a part of its glorious run. Like Shawn Fanning before him, Alan Ellis created the standard by which all others are to be judged, and his accomplishments will forever resonate with serious fans of digital music the world over.