Two jailed over web music piracy
Two internet pirates behind illegal music internet forum Dancing Jesus, which could have cost the industry more than £240 million, have been jailed.
The forum allowed members to post tens of thousands of illegal links to songs, often before they had been released, undermining record labels.
Site owner and administrator Kane Robinson, 26, of Wyndham Way, North Shields, North Tyneside, was jailed for two years and eight months at Newcastle Crown Court after he admitted earlier this year illegally distributing music.
More than 22,500 links to 250,000 individual titles were made available on Dancing Jesus between 2006 and 2011.
The site had more than 70 million user visits during its life span. If half of them illegally downloaded a single track, the cost to the industry would be around £35 million, but if half of them downloaded a whole album for free, the cost would be £242 million.
Richard Graham, 22, of Station Road, Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, was jailed for 21 months. He illegally distributed thousands of files on Dancing Jesus, including about 8,000 tracks, around two-thirds of which were pre-release.
Graham pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to illegally distributing music. Judge Deborah Sherwin said it would be easy to consider such activities a victimless crime but added that piracy reduced the ability of the industry to promote and fund new artists.
After the case, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said it linked with other organisations including the US Department of Homeland Security and City of London Police to investigate Dancing Jesus in 2010. The inquiry identified the creator and operator of the site as Robinson and in September 2011 he was arrested. The servers were seized in an operation involving law enforcement in Dallas.
The director of the BPI's Copyright Protection Unit, David Wood, said: "(This) sentencing sends a clear message to the operators and users of illegal music sites that online piracy is a criminal activity that will not be tolerated by law enforcement in the UK or overseas.
"Piracy - particularly pre-release - can make or break an artist's career, and can determine whether a record label is able to invest in that crucial second or third album.
"In this day and age with so many quality digital music services available offering access to millions of tracks through free and premium tiers, there is no good reason to use pirate sites that give nothing back to artists and offer a sub-standard experience for consumers.
"Speaking as a music fan, it just doesn't make sense to help criminals when you can support artists."
Jeremy Banks, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's director of anti-piracy, said: "This case is an excellent example of law enforcement agencies co-operating to tackle online criminal activity, which has a real impact on record companies and their ability to invest in artists.
"The illegal uploading of pre-release music can have a potentially devastating impact on the commercial success of an artist, making it more difficult for them to maintain a career in music. I would like to thank the authorities in the UK and the US for their work in resolving this case."
Huw Watkins, head of the Intellectual Property Office Intelligence Hub, said: "The IPO is committed to supporting rights holders in enforcing IP rights and this sentence shows how seriously the court takes such activity.
"This case demonstrates how successful intelligence and enforcement agencies working in partnership can be in stopping IP infringement."