First file-sharing trial ends in acquittal: What's your verdict?

It's been a bad week for the music industry, as the first file-sharing trial ended in acquittal and Mandy got a slap on the wrist. But has anything changed?

It's been a bad week for the music industry, as the UK's first major file-sharing trial ended in acquittal, and Peter Mandelson's plans for new powers were tempered. We'd like to know your thoughts.

Alan Ellis, a 26-year-old software engineer from Middlesbrough, has been unanimously acquitted of conspiracy to defraud copyright holders through his file-sharing site Oink's Pink Palace, or Oink. Interpol raided his house back in October 2007. The case ended on Friday at Teesside Crown Court, when Ellis was cleared of conspiracy to defraud.

That's not a charge specifically aimed at file sharers -- so, although Peter Mandelson's digital power grab was watered down last week, regulation of file sharing is still very much on its way. The outcome of future cases may not have such happy endings for file sharers. Does this verdict change anything?

The case involved some pretty big numbers: Oink users swapped more than 21m music tracks, and Ellis had a PayPal account groaning with £183,580 of user donations. Many torrent sites solicit donations from users, and it seems they're actually willing to cough up. This flies in the face of the received wisdom that file sharers are grasping larcenists with no intention of paying a penny for their tunes. If one bright spark in a Middlesbrough bedroom can rake in £11,000 a month, you have to wonder what the record companies are doing wrong.

Maybe there is gold in them thar file-sharing hills after all. The Guardian notes with disdain that torrent sites must be making money, but record companies could never compete with their own sharing enterprises because of the costs of discovering, promoting and supporting artists. Would you be happier to pay record labels if they offered file-sharing options, perhaps paid for by donations and subscriptions?

The Web may have damaged the music industry's distribution model, but it has also transformed the costly processes of discovery and promotion, with the emergence of ideas like fan-financed Slicethepie . Major labels are entrenched in an outdated model of chucking huge sums of money at lowest-common-denominator pop acts, talent-show novelties and stadium-touring dinosaurs to offset the fact that most albums never make any money.

We know what isn't working, but what's working for you as we enter a new decade of music over the Web? Post your thoughts, opinions and lyrics you're working on in the comments section below please folks.

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Software
About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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