Oink File-Sharing Case Illustrates Cultural Paradigm Shift

The acquittal, last week of Allan Elis, a bright software engineer who founded the popular Bit Torrent tracker Oink, highlighted the profound changes that are happening to the moral fabric of the Western world, a shift that could spell doom for content owners globally.

The verdict delivered was a slap in the face for the likes of the BPI, which not only acknowledged that it was hugely disappointing, but also because it was a unanimous decision even if all bets were stacked against Mr Ellis.

The site brought him money (bucketloads of money), fame and scores of positive comments either on ITProportal and many other mainstream websites including the likes of Dailymail.

Some commentators have said that the music industry has been "ripping off" consumers for years and that neither do manufacturers of crowbars get prosecuted for "facilitating burglary" nor are alcohol producers liable for crimes committed by the drunks.

The problem is that none of the arguments above hold their grounds. The music industry, unlike say UK's transport system, is an open market where you can choose to listen to any artist you want and there are plenty of alternative, free or paid for.

You are not limited in your choice, just as you would be limited when you want to travel from A to B on trains. If you are not happy about the price, don't buy the tracks or CDs, boycott it, source second hand items or go for a legitimate source like Spotify.

Stealing music tracks (i.e. taking away something from its legitimate owners without prior permission) cannot be morally justified whatever way you look at it.

As for manufacturers of crowbars and alcohol producers, well, crowbars (like knives) are overwhelmingly used for legal activities with a tiny minority using them for dodgy activities.

But there are anecdotal evidence that P2P is used mostly (though not entirely) for illicit activities. Last April, when Sweden introduced a law allowing copyright holders to gain details of file sharers swiftly, internet traffic in the country to drop by a third mostly due to a massive decrease in P2P consumption.

As for alcohol, well, there's a heavy tax already on alcohol which, in the UK alone was expected to bring £13 billion in VAT and duty.

So back to Oink which some have compared to Google and other search engines. Well, again, Oink Pink Palace was put in place almost exclusively to share high-quality sound tracks and nothing else.

Google and other search engines and media repositories - including the infamous Megaupload and Rapidshare - have simple and effective processes and mechanisms that allow content owners to remove illegal content even if this is a tedious procedure.

Music, so many of us have forgotten, is a service that needs to be paid for either through advertising (radios) or otherwise. Producing content is not free or exceptionally cheap except when it is generated randomly by computers.

Ultimately though, if labels decide to call it a day because music is no longer considered to be making enough profit, the whole industry will suffer, and that includes the music lovers, the artists and everybody else.

An industry, where the overwhelming majority of its customers think that getting its products for zilch, cannot possibly survive for long.