Pirate site allowed 21m downloads

A man who ran an illegal "pirate" music site which allowed 21 million downloads had almost 300,000 US dollars in his accounts when police raided his home, a jury has heard.

Alan Ellis founded the Oink website, which had around 200,000 members when it was shut down in 2007.

The 26-year-old, of Grange Road, Middlesbrough, denies conspiracy to defraud.

Peter Makepeace, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court: "This is not about prosecuting some poor minnow who has taped a record one night and circulated it to their friends. This is about large scale, professional, clever, technical ripping off.

"From 2004 onwards, Mr Ellis with others ran a pirate music website. That was a website which had private, members-only access and it facilitated the sharing of music files over the internet."

Oink was free to join, but by invitation only, and to be able to propose a friend, users had to pay a donation of at least £5. It was set up in May 2004 and the site was hosted in Norway, but switched to Amsterdam in December that year after the music industry asked it to stop.

Further investigations led police to raid the server site close to Schipol Airport and Ellis's Middlesbrough home simultaneously in October 2007.

Mr Makepeace said: "This site had facilitated a staggering 21 million downloads of those available files. It is clear that he received by way of donations personally, almost 300,000 dollars."

Oink did not host any music itself, it indexed the files users had available on their computers for others to download, the jury heard.

When he was interviewed by police, Ellis insisted it was "out of my hands" what members did and likened Oink to a search engine, Mr Makepeace said.