Saturday, September 18, 2010

Oink Raid Costs Revealed

File-sharing is often portrayed as 'a cost' to the economy and to society, yet the criminal enforcement has similar costs, especially when they fail. A prime example is the oink case where a FOI request has found case costs of over £29,000

Over the past few years, there's been a number of police 'raids' of bit-torrent websites. Operation D-Elite in the US, the Pirate Bay take-down in Sweden, and a handful in Bulgaria last month all targeted file-sharing sites with extensive heavily-prepped police raids. Perhaps one of the more meticulously planned of them all were the oink raids, as part of Operation Ark Royal, which began 3 years ago.

After 2 years of investigations Alan Ellis, who ran the site, was found not guilty on all charges as was an uploader targeted by the operation, while four other uploaders were sentenced to a combined total of 330 hours of community service, and £1,134 in court costs, and £500 in fines. What was the cost of that?

According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request filed by TheRegister, and published this week, the costs were over £29,000 just for 'extra' costs, which they have broken down as follows

  • More than £7,800 spent on police overtime

  • More than £15,200 on forensics

  • More than £4,300 on travel and subsistence for investigators

This does not, of course, count the costs of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in preparing it's case, or the man-hours on the case that wasn't overtime. Nor does it count the cost to the BBC, for sending a news crew with the raid. When all this is taken into consideration, the real cost may be closer to £50,000.

For that 50k, what did the British people get? Well, they got some people to do some painting (although superpowers are doubtful) and a fraction of the costs back - a result similar to civil enforcement in the US. They also now have two music-based torrent sites, rather than one, which is nice, and the police have learned that claims made by industry are often false. And let's not forget that the music industry, which claims to be hurting in the UK, has been selling more music each year. The sad part is, no-one will be taken to task for this, despite senior officers telling lies to the public about the case, and the vast waste of money they turned into, at the behest of an industry lobby group.

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