Oink creator improving his skills, court told

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The Independent Online

A software engineer whose illegal pirate music website allowed 21 million songs to be downloaded told a court today he set it up in his bedroom to brush up on his computing skills.

Alan Ellis, 26, was studying at Teesside University and living in shared digs when he created the Oink website in 2004.

When police raided his terraced home three years later, they found almost 300,000 dollars in his accounts and the site had 200,000 members, Teesside Crown Court has heard.

He entered the witness box to begin his defence, explaining that he set up the website to improve his skills because he was unhappy with his "outdated" software engineering honours degree.

He used time before he started a placement with a large chemical firm to write the code needed to set up Oink.

The jury has heard it allowed members to find other people on the web who were prepared to share files - allowing users to get hold of music for free.

Some even got hold of albums by top-name artists before they were released - damaging the music industry, the jury was told.

Users were required to make a donation to be able to invite friends to join the site, the court heard.

Barrister Alex Stein, defending, asked why he set up the site.

Ellis, in a short-sleeved shirt and a tie, replied: "It was to further my skills.

"To better my skills for employability."

Originally, the site was hosted on his home computer, in his bedroom, he said.

By 2007, it had moved to a commercial server in Amsterdam which was needed to carry so much internet traffic, the court heard.

Ellis, who was born in Leeds and grew up in south Manchester, studying A-levels in Cheadle, said there was no intention to defraud copyright holders.

Mr Stein asked: "What was your intention in setting up the site?"

"I didn't have an intention, I was furthering my skills as a programmer, as a software engineer."

Ellis, of Grange Road, Middlesbrough, denies conspiracy to defraud.

Ellis told the court the website was developed from a free template, which had a Torrent file-sharing facility included in it.

He said that could be used for "distributing TV shows, updates for games, all kinds of things".

Mr Stein said: "It did develop into a music site didn't it? Was that your intention?"

Ellis replied: "It's just the way it happened.

"The community as a whole dictated the rules and how it went forward."

Ellis had a full-time job as a software engineer and said administering the site was just a hobby.

Mr Stein asked: "From 2004 all the way to 2007, had you been hiding the fact that you were in charge of it?"

"Not at all, no," Ellis said.

The case continues.