Pirates, caught by pigs? Pigs, walking the plank? Sorry, this is so metaphor-laden I’m stumped. Photo by frogmuseum, via Flickr. PS, the fact that I’ve made this torrent site look so darned cute is not me advocating piracy. It was either that or a dirty pig snout.

Oink logoSeveral readers have written in to say that Oink, a music torrent server, has been busted. British and Dutch police raided the servers (via several properties in Amsterdam) and the 24-year-old IT worker (and his father) alleged to have operated the site.

The news:
IFPI press release
Huge pirate music site shut down [BBC News, in a story Releasedog, without explanation, claims contains “lies.” Anyone know what they’re talking about?]

Oink was arguably the largest music-focused BitTorrent-based server, but its special notoriety was in pirating albums prior to release — some 60 albums this year alone, according to worldwide recording industry body IFPI. It also succeeded as being an elite, invite-only club — albeit with a reported 180,000 members. That success led Blender Magazine to name Oink’s anonymous operator “Oinkylicious Alan” one of its 25 “power geeks” of music — though, ahem, “Alen” may not be so anonymous any more.

Updated: As several of you have noted, there were some additional details that made Oink very different. The members were largely music aficionados, with a strict upload ratio meaning that it was closer to a swapping service than some other torrent sites. What that makes me wonder — oink may well have been closer to a community, closer to legit than other torrent sites. But could it also be a model for truly legit music services?

Music software, too: Based on at least one tip from readers, the same torrent servers were also popular for pirating plug-ins and music software for “evaluation” prior to purchasing. Do people really purchase software after pirating it? Our sources say some do, at least among die-hard computer musicians on CDM, though unquestionably many more don’t. The availability of demo versions of a lot of software should raise at least some eyebrows, but in fairness, not all software is available as a demo — particularly plug-ins. (Many other CDM readers, for the record, stay away from pirated music software for “evaluation” or otherwise.) But at least a couple of you have noted software wasn’t a big portion of oink.

Torrent, force for good. Note to software publishers: legit torrents could actually be a great way to distribute real demo versions and updates, at vastly reduced bandwidth costs. Unfortunately, each time torrent servers aggressively promote piracy, BitTorrent as a technology loses ground. And that’s too bad; BitTorrent really is fantastic tech with real legitimate uses.