The UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has seized the domain of UK music blog RnBXclusive leaving users with a page showing any visitor’s IP address, their OS, the time, and a threatening message about a possible 10 year prison sentence for downloading music from the site.
Exactly why SOCA is involved in a case of relatively small-time copyright infringement is unknown, as it normally busies itself with drugs, money laundering, and illegal firearms amongst other things – but this case has caused quite a bit of debate online since yesterday’s take-down. Some are annoyed that SOCA is doing the copyright lobbyists job for them with its statement on the website that
If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law.
I have yet to see a single case where someone has seen prison time for simply downloading music illegally, with prosecutions so far failing to even gain conviction for those running large-scale Bittorrent communities such as Oink that focused on sharing full albums in high quality – making this statement alarmist at best.
Others see the seizure as another reason to block the continued erosion of the public’s digital rights with ACTA, when sites can already be shut down under current laws – a position with which we here at TechFruit agree. If, as the SOCA notice says, the site’s operators are being charged with fraud (likely “defrauding the music industry”) for providing links to infringing mp3s, which it does look like the site operators uploaded themselves, then that seems like sufficient laws are already in place for prosecuting those that are illegally offering copyrighted files online – the public’s rights need no further erosion to make this happen.
In contrast, however, with the case with Dajaz1 in the US, RnBXclusive does appear to have been committing that mortal sin of the music blogging world and sharing mp3s of singles from top40 commercial artists that are signed to major labels. Taking a look at the site’s content from last summer on Archive.org, it is apparent that they were sharing mp3s from artists such as Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson, and Mel C – not something music blogs should ever be doing without express permission from the label. There are some rules that music bloggers tend to follow as they try to help promote artists online – some written and some unwritten – and following these tends to keep music blogs out of trouble. RnBXclusive appears to have simply ignored all of these in order to generate traffic by sharing popular top40 pop mp3s, and as such is on the receiving end of a take-down for good reason, whether it should have been actioned by SOCA or the general police force.