THE TRIAL of a North-East man accused of being the administrator of one of the world’s largest illegal music file sharing websites was adjourned today.

Alan Ellis, 26, was arrested in 2007 as part of an Interpol-led operation to shut down Oink, a music file-sharing website which attracted around 180,000 members.

Computer equipment and documents were seized from his home in Middlesbrough in October 2007.

Eleven months later police charged him with conspiracy to commit fraud and copyright infringement.

Investigators said the Oink music sharing service was set up in 2004.

But Ellis, who worked at Virgin Media’s contact centre in Stockton, claims the website was not illegal and that investigators have misunderstood its purpose.

He has compared it to search engines such as Google which could also direct users to illegal music downloads.

Oink, which used a cartoon of a pink pig as its logo, was one of the world's most popular "peer-to-peer"

music download sites helping users share files and fostering an online community.

Music publishers and police have targeted peer-to-peer file sharing sites because they allow users to swap music for free.

According to users, Oink had a data throughput of two terrabytes every day - the equivalent of five million songs.

To become a member a music lover needed an invitation.

Once registered they could download five gigabytes of music (about 1,000 songs) without having to do anything more. A ratio system ensured that members had to make music available to the Oink community if they wanted to continue.

Members did not have to pay a fee. They could, however, make voluntary donations to keep the operation running.

The site had a huge database of music. It even operated a highly regarded request system.

Oink became so popular that eagerly anticipated albums were sometimes made available to members before they went on general release.

The technology used - a method known as BitTorrent file-sharing - broke files down into small chunks of data allowing the files to be distributed more efficiently.

Ellis’ trial at Middlesbrough Crown Court was adjourned until tomorrow for legal arguments.