The UK Government’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has seized music blog RnBXclusive, and has put up a message on the website threatening to send anyone who downloaded music from the website to 10 years in prison.
RnBXclusive provided links to songs and releases for R&B/hip hop fans, although it does carry a lot of its own original content in terms of news and commentary on the music scene.
If past seizures are any indication, SOCA made the seizure based solely on "evidence" provided by the music industry. The evidence usually exaggerates claims of loss and allegations of criminal activity. In fact, some of the one-sided evidence was so bad, that it actually helped the defendants walk free, which was exactly what happened in the government's cases against BitTorrent community FileSoup, and music download website OiNK.
And much like the OiNK seizure, users of the site were threatened along with the operators. Disturbingly, visitors to RnBXclusive.com are now presented with a screen that shows their IP address and the warning of "an unlimited fine" and "a maximum penalty of up to 10 years". It also shows a threatening message featuring phrases that looks as if it was written by the music industry:
SOCA has the capability to monitor and investigate you, and can inform your internet service provider of these infringements.
You may be liable for prosecution and the fact that you have received this message does not preclude you from prosecution.
As a result of illegal downloads young, emerging artists may have had their careers damaged. If you have illegally downloaded music you will have damaged the future of the music industry.
Fans of RnBXclusive are already attacking the claims that "emerging artists may have had their careers damaged", by suggesting that RnBXclusive was doing exactly the opposite, helping new artists get discovered.
"This couldn't be more incorrect! There are countless artists that I've discovered through this website and later supported!", said one users on RnBXclusive's official Facebook page, "I, like many, have discovered artists through their website that I otherwise wouldn't have" posted another user.
A little more than a year ago, similar websites were seized in the US as part of Operation In Our Sites. One of those seized domains, DaJaz1, was only returned back to its rightful owner a whole year later, after authorities failed to prove they had a case to seize the domain name. DaJaz1's operators claimed that many of the songs they made available to download were leaked to them directly by the artists, for promotional purposes. The website has since been used as an example of an unlawful seizure of a lawful website, with due process conveniently ignored at the insistence of content holders.
Many theorized at the time of DaJaz1's seizure that the music industry was more worried about artists bypassing the major labels to promote their songs via blogs like DaJaz1, and hence showing the major label's increasing irrelevance in the age of the Internet, than any actual efforts to prevent copyright infringement.
Mel from DaJaz1's sees parallels between the take-down of RnBXclusive and his website. "I guess the UK doesn’t believe in due process either," he posted on the DaJaz1 blog.