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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June 2008, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
File sharers in first UK arrests
By Jim Reed
Newsbeat technology reporter

OiNK allowed members to swap high quality music files

British police have arrested the individual users of a file sharing website for the first time.

Six former members of the now-defunct file-sharing site OiNK were detained "in relation to uploading pre-released music," according to Cleveland Police.

Five men aged between 19 and 33 and a 28-year-old woman have now been released on bail without charge.

OiNK was shut down last October by Cleveland Police acting on advice from Interpol.

Its servers in Amsterdam were seized and returned wiped of any data.

The free site allowed its 180,000 members to swap high quality music files with each other using the Bittorrent protocol.

Leaked tracks

Membership was by invite-only and users were asked to upload a certain amount of material every month.

Unlike similar Bittorrent sites, OiNK members had to register using a valid email address.

Both the police and the record industry said that users often traded in pre-released or leaked tracks before the material was available to buy in the shops.

In a statement, the BPI, which speaks for the record industry, said: "The illegal online distribution of music, particularly pre-release, is hugely damaging, and as OiNK was the biggest source for pre-releases at the time we moved to shut it down.

"We provided the information to assist this investigation, but this is now a police matter and we are unable to comment further at this stage."

Tougher penalties

A 24-year-old IT worker was arrested last October as part of the investigation into OiNK.

He remains on police bail on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright law.

But the latest arrests mark the first time British police have taken direct action against the members or users of a file sharing website.

The record industry has also been pressing for tougher penalties for people caught downloading music illegally.

It advocates a three-strike rule where internet providers are asked to cut off the connection of customers who have ignored warnings about downloading pirated material.

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