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Alleged file-sharing websites disappear or change in aftermath of RnBXclusive takedown, UK police say

Three allegedly file-sharing websites have stopped or will soon stop giving access to copyright-infringing material in the aftermath of the closing of another site, according to police investigators.16 Feb 2012

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said that it had "monitored responses" to its takedown of the 'RnBXclusive' website on Tuesday and that other sites had gone offline or changed their purpose.

"Responses to the takedown have included action by three more music sites," SOCA said in a statement. "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."

SOCA took RnBXclusive offline at 08:30 on Tuesday morning, an agency message posted on the site had said. That message, which said users could face 10 years in jail if they had downloaded music from the site, has now been removed. The content of the message had been influenced by rights holders, SOCA said, according to a report by news service ZDNet.

SOCA said RnBXclusive "enabled access to music obtained by hacking" and allowed users to access music that was still to be officially released. Music industry body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) claimed the site cost "legitimate businesses and artists" approximately £15 million a year. A man who the police believe was behind the website was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, but has now been bailed, the agency said.

Under the Criminal Justice Act a person is guilty of conspiring to defraud if that person "agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued and that course of conduct will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions". The maximum term of imprisonment for the offence is 10 years, a fine, or both.

Peter Bradwell, campaigner with the Open Rights Group (ORG), said there were some "real issues" raised by SOCA's actions.

Bradwell said that it "doesn't appear" that SOCA had seized the domain name to RnBXclusive but that instead "whoever" owned control of the site through hosting company Rackspace had posted SOCA's takedown message.

"If there was no court order involved, why has Rackspace responded not only by taking down the website but permitting SOCA to put up the landing page? Why has this been dealth (sic) with as fraud, rather than copyright infringement - and what offence are they suggesting users of the site have committed, which would lead to them potentially being jailed for 10 years?," Bradwell said in an ORG blog.

SOCA insisted that "all action" it took in relation to the RnBXclusive case "was done after due and careful consideration with respect to the legal position of [SOCA's] actions," according to the ZDNet report.

Expertise in Copyright

Copyright is an extremely valuable, often unrecognised or misunderstood right which protects a whole range of original materials including written materials, software, artistic materials, music and dramatic works. It arises automatically without the need for registration in most countries and protects these materials from unauthorised copying. It is essential in business to identify such rights, ensure they are owned by the correct entity, properly protected, enforced and exploited.

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