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SOCA speaks out about music web site takedown

Exclusive Says arrested individual is suspected of fraud
Thu Feb 16 2012, 12:49

THE UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has spoken out about its takedown of the Rnbxclusive web site yesterday, saying the arrested individual is suspected of alleged "fraud".

SOCA's revelation comes after SOCA put a splash page on the web site after taking it down, warning users that they faced 10 years in prison for visiting the web site. The splash page has now been removed and replaced with something less alarming, and SOCA is claiming that the takedown and arrest was a 32 hour operation.

A SOCA spokesman told The INQUIRER that the individual arrested in conjunction with the music blog is suspected of fraud, rather than copyright infringement. He confirmed that the operation has a name designation but would not reveal the name or elaborate on the details.

He claimed that the web site had music that had been obtained "by data breach" and in some cases had been "stolen directly from the artist" before it was released.

When asked to explain the somewhat dramatic threat of 10 years in prison for those who visited the web site, the spokesman said, "If you download music that has been illegally obtained, you can be accused of fraud, if you are deemed to be part of the conspiracy to defraud."

We put it to him that most users would have unknowingly downloaded the allegedly illegal content anyway, and he admitted that the web site splash page was aimed at "warning people about how they use the internet".

A statement on SOCA's web site yesterday said, "A warning has been directed at users frequenting a music download site which was taken offline on 14 February by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The action has prompted wide-ranging responses from website users, the general public, and other sites.

"The targeted SOCA activity, which lasted 32 hours, was part of an operational programme aimed at protecting UK businesses and the wider economy.

"The website in question specialised in RnB and enabled access to music obtained by hacking, including some which had not yet been released.

"SOCA has monitored responses since 08.30 on 14 February when was taken offline following the arrest of a man for suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. He has now been released on bail pending further enquiries.

"Responses to the takedown have included action by three more music sites. One has taken itself offline voluntarily, one claims to be considering taking itself offline, and another has posted a claim on its home page to now only be dealing in legal music files following the activity. A number of site users have deleted their download histories. Commentary on Twitter and other social media has been global.

"SOCA's holding message to users who had been frequenting the website was taken offline at the conclusion of the first phase of the operation on 15 February."

Pirate Party leader Loz kaye told The INQUIRER, "The SOCA press release raises more questions than it answers. What was the purpose of the 32 hour operation? Was it really to monitor people visiting the site? In which case, they will have an excellent set of journalist contacts now.

"It should simply not be the job of a serious crime agency to 'warn' us about how we use the Internet. I'm sure if you ask voters whether they are more worried about gun crime or music blogs, it won't be RnB that is seen as the major threat.

He added, "In a broader sense, this whole episode is a chilling warning of what the post-ACTA Internet could look like." µ


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