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SOCA takes down music site, threatens visitors with jail

  • music
  • SOCA message

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 15 Feb 2012 at 09:50

A website has been taken offline by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which left behind a message warning visitors they could be identified from their IP address.

The takedown of rnbxclusive.com appears to the first time a site has been removed by SOCA, although other sites in the UK have previously been taken offline via court order.

UPDATE: SOCA removes jail threat from file-sharing site

"SOCA has taken control of this domain name," the message reads. "The individuals behind this website have been arrested for fraud."

The majority of music files that were available via this site were stolen from the artists

A spokesperson for SOCA said one person was arrested yesterday morning, and the site was taken down because it breached the terms and conditions of its hosting provider, but would not say who raised the original complaint.

The message left behind by SOCA echoes the legal warnings used by the US Department of Homeland Security for its takedowns, but also features claims the music was stolen from "the artists" - and links to a legal music information site run by rights holder lobby groups.

SOCA message

"The majority of music files that were available via this site were stolen from the artists," the message continues. "If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law."

The warning message also surfaces your IP address and time of visit, saying the information "can be used to identify you and your location".

"SOCA has the capability to monitor and investigate you, and can inform your internet service provider of these infringements," it adds. "You may be liable for prosecution and the fact that you have received this message does not preclude you from prosecution."

A spokesperson said the IP address information was "merely a warning", and admitted that visiting the site was not illegal.

SOCA, a department of the Home Office, says on its website that it targets "Class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud, computer crime and money laundering".

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User comments

Seems a bit strange

The web site picture seems a bit strange in that although it pertains to be from SOCA it is also intimating that pro-music.org has something to do with it!!!

Is this an official SOCA web page???

By gfmoore on 15 Feb 2012

Unbe-effing-lievable

The music was "stolen" from the artists was it? So they woke up one morning and found their music had gone? Shocking!

And the IP address stuff is just heavy handed. When I see the music and other creative industries doing stuff like this it just drives me towards other ways of acquiring content.

By PaulOckenden on 15 Feb 2012

Out of curiosity, oes anyone know the BS to truth ratio of this?

i.e. does the artist themselves own the songs, what are the chances of the pirater discovering new music and subsequently buying it, are they still logging the IP addresses despite it being a warning, how much damage is actually done in REALITY, etc?

Sorry but these sought of people have come out with so much **** over the years that I just have to ask.

By tech3475 on 15 Feb 2012

Can't Be Trusted

Well, I just visited the site and it reckons my browser is "Desktop" (wrong) and my OS is Windows NT (wrong again).

If that's any indication of the skills behind their monitoring capabilities, I'd love to see their evidence stand up in court.

By Grace_Quirrel on 15 Feb 2012

The real thieves

The people that musicians complain most about (in regards to stealing their income)? Record Companies.

They've been cheating artists for years. And it's they scream loudest about protecting their racket.

By mcmpro1 on 15 Feb 2012

Out of curiosity, oes anyone know the BS to truth ratio of this?

i.e. does the artist themselves own the songs, what are the chances of the pirater discovering new music and subsequently buying it, are they still logging the IP addresses despite it being a warning, how much damage is actually done in REALITY, etc?

Sorry but these sought of people have come out with so much **** over the years that I just have to ask.

By tech3475 on 15 Feb 2012

Excessive or what?

Why do the police seem to have this need to over-state the consequences?

Total BS - none of which is possible and they know it, or they certainly should know it. All the page needs to say is that the site's been taken down while investigations are ongoing and (perhaps) the site operators have been arrested on charges of fraud.
Apparently logging IP addresses for possible prosecution - Really? For visiting a web site?

Using such threatening language, they then wonder why so many people are trusting the police force less and less.

There is also a worry about Government censorship & removing sites criticising the regime - I'd not heard of this site before and now I cannot know what was on it. However, that's another story.
I guess we must trust the Police...
- Oh, wait.

By greemble on 15 Feb 2012

This makes me very angry.

This isn't serious crime, it is crime that has been sensationalised by major US copyright owners through lobbying, pushing for measures like SOPA, PIPA and ACTA. These copyright owners are not doing this to increase the earnings of struggling artists, they are doing it to retain their control of profits. The Swiss research that I have become bored linking to showed that "piracy" does not necessarily decrease the amount of music and film that people consume through legitimate channels, it is a way for people to discover artists and then buy their music and films through legitimate channels. I think placing this kind of activity on a par with human traficking, money laundering, gun crime, class A drugs, is the sign of an agency that has strayed way beyond its brief - an easy way to justify taking a larger slice of public funding by inventing something that can now be classified as a serious crime. Seriously, ten years in prison and an unlimited fine for downloading an MP3? And what about the fact that the simple workaround for people downloading mp3s is to use DNS tunnelling - SOCA are actually pushing people who are not criminals into popularising a technology that could make it easier for terrorists to elude detection. You'd think that all they want is to make their agency bigger and bigger and justify a bigger and bigger slice of the criminal justice budget.

By revsorg on 15 Feb 2012

What if somebody sends me a link to this site

so if you just visit the site the police will know who you are and will come knocking - arrest you until proven innocent.

That shit stinks.

That shit has ACTA written all over it.

By nicomo on 15 Feb 2012

Alexander Hanff email to SOCA

Thought you might find this tweet interesting, linking to text of an email sent by Alexander Hanff to SOCA https://twitter.com/#!/alexanderhanff/status/16975
8155167895552

By revsorg on 15 Feb 2012

poor record companys

poor Soney jut put up the price of Witney Huston recordings this will benifit the artist

By keptho1 on 15 Feb 2012

Missing Link & Opportunity?

Weird too that there is no hyperlink to Pro-Music.org as one might have thought they'd be curious to know just how many people chose to visit the Pro-Music site having seen the SOCA notice (hyperlinking would give them an easy way to track this). But now they'll have little or no idea, something they would surely want if this is supposed to have some kind of educational aspect to it (learning about legal music downloads) as well as being a warning.

By philwane on 15 Feb 2012

Poor HTML

I laughed out loud when I did a "view source" of the page. And then I laughed again when I fed it to the W3C validator.

By PaulOckenden on 15 Feb 2012

Missing Link & Opportunity?

Weird too that there is no hyperlink to Pro-Music.org as one might have thought they'd be curious to know just how many people chose to visit the Pro-Music site having seen the SOCA notice (hyperlinking would give them an easy way to track this). But now they'll have little or no idea, something they would surely want if this is supposed to have some kind of educational aspect to it (learning about legal music downloads) as well as being a warning.

By philwane on 15 Feb 2012

Who authored the notice?

I note that SOPA assert their copyright but did a serving police officer or other law official really write all the stuff about music being stolen from the artists and especially that last sentence about damaging the future of the music industry?

I am pretty certain that nothing has been stolen since the owners haven’t been permanently deprived of their property. Possible revenues yes – but that is something different and certainly difficult to quantify. So other offences including fraud have possibly been committed but (as a non-lawyer) I am pretty certain that nothing has actually been stolen contrary to the statement.

So one cannot help but wonder if some of the text was authored by someone in the music business and supplied to the police. This kind of thing certainly seems to happen in the United States (including drafts of legislation of course) and officials have then come unstuck once the often emotive and unfounded statements have been subject to even a modest degree of actual legal analysis or scrutiny by the likes of academics and journalists.

By philwane on 15 Feb 2012

"you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine"

If only murder was seen as being so heinous a crime.

By Lacrobat on 15 Feb 2012

Looks like we need someone to check it out...

I thought News International had an exclusive contract with the 'Boys in Blue'.

Seems like they're moonlighting with the Muzak Biz.....

By wittgenfrog on 15 Feb 2012

According to their website 'Piracy' (part of Intellectual Property Crime) gets only the most cursory mention. The bulk of the puff is about counterfeiting.

Their site consistently emphasies 'intelligence' and constantly suggests they are fighting dangerous people.

Whilst I have no brief for Music or Movie Pirates (I always pay) I don't consider them a threat to my life nor security...

Given the state of 'The State' in this country comment I'm probably blacklisted as a dangerous subversive after writing this (again!).
That's assuming they have the smarts to figure it out...

What a disappointment it'll be if they do!

By wittgenfrog on 15 Feb 2012

OOPs

'comment' is spurious above.

By wittgenfrog on 15 Feb 2012

Through the looking glass

It does seem very odd. Why tell people that seeing the message doesn't "preclude them from prosecution"? Is this a one-off SOCA project or are there other sites now showing the same banner?

I'm quite disappointed to see nothing here about the likely funding or and "ecosystem" of the underlying website: after the exposure of the nature of the money behind megaupload.com it would have been nice to see the "free, yeah man" naivete wind back a tad...

By Steve_Cassidy on 15 Feb 2012

@Steve Cassidy

'..it would have been nice to see the "free, yeah man" naivete wind back a tad...'
+1

By wittgenfrog on 15 Feb 2012

"Young, emerging artists may have had their careers damaged."

They may have. More likely they may have been cheated out of royalties by record companies.

Most emerging artists (why do they have to be young?) are desperate to be heard at any cost. If they're good, people will buy their output. If they're not good, people won't download again.

By Truculent on 15 Feb 2012

Common sense ...

If a publican set up a "free jukebox" and didn't pay royalties would we regard it as reasonable to be threatening customers who went up to it and pressed a button with ten years in prison? It would certainly be reasonable to go after the publican, but the customers have no real way of knowing that the royalties have not been paid.

How is it different with a web site? Possibly the scale of the operation put this in the category of "serious and organised crime", but that does not mean that "customers" of the site are legitimate targets of that unit. At most they are guilty of a crime at the level of shoplifting.

By JohnAHind on 15 Feb 2012

From a semi insider

I think the main beef with this site is the claim that artists have been hacked/conned into sending music to people claiming to be from their label or production house. That IS fraud and SOCA would get involved. Otherwise i agree with the comments stating that its very heavy handed!

By UKOptimus on 15 Feb 2012

From a semi insider

I think the main beef with this site is the claim that artists have been hacked/conned into sending music to people claiming to be from their label or production house. That IS fraud and SOCA would get involved. Otherwise i agree with the comments stating that its very heavy handed!

By UKOptimus on 15 Feb 2012

Yes but is this 'take-down' legal?

@JohnAHind
I see where you're comiong from, but our leaders have decided that downloading copyrighted material for nothing is illegal.
Listening to illegally played music is not.

Personally as stated above I have no real sympathy with either the people who profit from providing illegal download sites, nor for anybody who illegally download.
I am an 'arts'-lover and I'm very happy to pay a reasonable price in order to have access to Music, Films, Papers, Magazines etc. The word 'fair' is important in that sentence!

People who simply download what others have created and pay them nothing are parasites.

On the subject of this particular strange business, however, I am totally mystified.
I have always assumed that there is a process of Law required to 'take over' a website.
I had also always assumed that our Police Force is there for the benefit of us all and does not operate solely on behalf of particular Individiuals, Companies or Commercial Associations. This notice (assuming it is genuine) suggest quite strongly otherwise. The more I think about it the more like wind-up (i.e FAKE) this appears!

I'm now in 'wait & see' mode for official corroboration or denial. :-)

By wittgenfrog on 15 Feb 2012

From a semi insider

I think the main beef with this site is the claim that artists have been hacked/conned into sending music to people claiming to be from their label or production house. That IS fraud and SOCA would get involved. Otherwise i agree with the comments stating that its very heavy handed!

By UKOptimus on 15 Feb 2012

Fraud?

The bit about the site's owners being "arrested for fraud" is interesting.

Things like this don't normally get reported until someone has been charged.

And "Arrested for..." is not a common UK expression. So who's really behind all this?

And since when is piracy fraud, anyway?

There's a lot more to this story than meets the eye, methinks.

By Grace_Quirrel on 15 Feb 2012

Woken up?

Look - they've changed the page and we're not all going to burn in hell for browsing over for a nosey...

By rsw75 on 15 Feb 2012

scam

I don't believe this is SOCA. Reporting arrests and going public before charging is something Leveson enquiry is looking at. How embarrassing - even BBC now has it.

By jonathandk2 on 15 Feb 2012

Unfortunately it is SOCA

See their own web-site:
http://www.soca.gov.uk/news/401-music-website-take
down-latest
To say this stinks would be a gross understatement. I thought the Human Rights Act was supposed to guard against such "disproportionate" responses.
As others have said this is hardly even theft and the principal victims are the fat cats who own the big media, the sort of people who bank-roll political parties. Sites offering illegal downloads for profit should be closed and the owners fined, but to threaten people just for visiting a website is outrageous, as is the idea that this is "serious crime" which the SOCA website states"includes Class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud, computer crime and money laundering."

By Walsallian on 16 Feb 2012

Unprofessionally presumptive

The wording of the take-down notice is sort of speculative or presumptive in a way that one would not expect of professional police officers.
.
One could infer from this that they have received one-sided info from the music industry and have quoted it almost verbatim.
.
I think there would be grounds for an investigation of SOCA to determine how it came to naively accept such info without exercising its own professional judgement.
.
It is surely an offence to make seriously unsettling threats even to individuals who may have done nothing more than stumble across the web site concerned.

By fogtax on 16 Feb 2012

SOCA obviously haven't googled for rnb music

Googling for "rnb music" takes me straight to this site as the first hit. So, searching for a particular type of music, I get threats made at me, and claims that my IP has been recorded in a database of criminals.

Reasonable action? No. The original site may have been illegal but SOCA are also acting criminally, in making illegal threats against legitimate users of Google.

IMO, SOCA should get their knuckles rapped hard over this threatening notice. Two wrongs don't make a right.

By Anteaus on 16 Feb 2012

IP Address as Evidence

This little episode shows succinctly why 'I saw IP address XX downloading music file Y at datetime ZZ:ZZ' should not be accepted as evidence of anything in a court of law. Especially when the people who allegedly 'saw' (logged) the activity are being paid by copyright holders to make such allegations and thus have a massive conflict of interest.

Still I'd love to see SOCA try prosecuting people when all they have as evidence is that IP address XX viewed a site with a legally-inaccurate anti-piracy message.

By happyskeptic on 16 Feb 2012

IFPI and RIAA input

Reading the SOCA downoad-latest posting I wouldn't be surprised to find the fingerprints of the the IFPA and by association those of the RIAA all over the original take down notice. However, I am surprised and disappointed that a UK law enforcement agency would still appear to be acting as the unpaid mouthpiece of Big Business in view of the current problems concerning certain sections of the HM Constabulary and the UK press.
I am old enough to remember when the police force was still generally respected by the public. Actions like this does nothing to help restore that healthy situation

By dwgp2 on 16 Feb 2012

Revisiting Monty Python's Circus

To me, an American, something called the Serious Organised Crime Agency is somewhat comical, fodder for a skit for Monty Python. Picture it The cast leaving no stone unturned, looking for some masked felonious music downloader, armed with a laptop.

Perhaps the Home Office needs an new companion agency: the Frivolous Disorganised Crime Agency.

Monty Python would love it.

By gmailjay on 16 Feb 2012

Bully Boys

When is SOCA going to do something about the music and film industry ripping us off? Yes, I agree that downloading films and music without paying for it is wrong, but can you blame3 people for dong it at the prices the industry charges for its wares. I was looking at an album on Amazon the other day which you could download individual tracks as MP3 files. If you downloaded all the tracks you would pay over £17 for the album plus you would have to supply the media to store it on and this was an old album. No wonder people download them for free.

By birdmaniw on 16 Feb 2012

@Walsallian

Thanks for the update.
SOCA's 'explaination' seems to support the view that SOCA is operating mainly on behalf of vested interests in the Muszak Business.

I have absolutely no beef with the Police taking-down websites run for criminal and\or terrorist purposes (within appropriate legal constraints).
I DO object to their take-down notice and subsequent self-serving press release merely parroting propaganda from the Music Industry.

If some crime has been committed, and a suspect arrested let's hear about that (or hear nothing while it's sub-judacy) not a lot of patronising and inaccurate woffle from Big Business.

By wittgenfrog on 17 Feb 2012

funny...

I just tried for the sake of it... if you use a proxy server... there is no IP tracking report... I just guess that they cannot track you then...
It just go very well with the all concept of illegal download that "steal" money from the artists... or maybe it is the big major that got their racket scr###d up?

By rvboutin on 17 Feb 2012

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