As part of a criminal investigation the UK Government has shut down the popular blog RnBXclusive which posted news, commentary and links to music. Authorities have arrested the owners of the site for allegedly defrauding the music industry. In addition, the Serious Organised Crime Agency is threatening users of RnBXclusive that they face 10 years in prison if they downloaded music through the site.
Founded in 2008, RnBXclusive.com quickly became one of the most popular R&B / hip hop blogs. With over a quarter million fans on Facebook it was the go-to destination for many music fans.
But that all changed today when the UK Government’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) took over the domain and arrested its operators.
“SOCA has taken control of this domain name. The individuals behind this website have been arrested for fraud,” reads a message on the site’s home page.
In addition to arresting the site’s operators for allegedly defrauding the music industry by posting links to copyrighted music, SOCA also warns those who used the site to download tracks.
In a rather threatening tone SOCA explains that RnBXclusive readers face up to 10 years in prison.
“The majority of music files that were available via this site were stolen from the artists. If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law.”
To guarantee maximum impact the warning also displays the IP-address of those who visit the site. SOCA explains that they may use this information for further investigation.
“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.”
The above is reminiscent of a message that was displayed when the UK authorities shut down the popular BitTorrent tracker OiNK. At the time, the site’s visitors also received a warning. The OiNK case, however, turned out to be a waste of tax payer money and the site’s owner eventually walked free.
Finally, SOCA’s warning on RnBXclusive concludes with a rather tendentious claim which appears to come directly from a music industry lobby group.
“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.”
The above is worrying, because it wouldn’t be the first time that UK authorities are dragged into a criminal investigation solely based on evidence provided by the entertainment industries. In fact, this was the main reason why the operators of another BitTorrent tracker – FileSoup – had their case dismissed.
In the US similar mistakes were made with the seizure of the music blog Dajaz1. More than a year after Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized the site’s domain, they finally gave it back. It turned out that the seizure was a mistake.
Mel of Dajaz1 also sees similarities between today’s actions and the seizure of their site in 2010.
“Unbelievable, apparently the UK Govt doesn’t believe in Due Process either and their claims of damaging the industry and artists is unsupported propaganda,” she told TorrentFreak. “We’re completely against the process of seizing first and asking questions later.”
Thus far UK authorities haven’t officially responded to the RnBXclusive shutdown and arrests. We will add an update as more news becomes available.