Two men have avoided jail after admitting copying thousands of files from Sony Music, including previously unreleased tracks by Michael Jackson.
James Marks, 27, and James McCormick, 26, hacked into the record company’s servers in the US from their homes in Daventry, Northants, and Blackpool respectively and downloaded thousands of tracks, including ones by the late pop star and previously unreleased music, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said.
The hackers, who met through a fan website forum, also downloaded music by artists including Elvis, Beyonce, JLS, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.
In total they downloaded around 7,000 files which were completed tracks or the component parts, as well as artwork and videos, SOCA said.
Marks and McCormick were arrested in May 2011 after Sony identified the security breach.
Chatlogs recovered from their computer hard drives showed they were planning to sell or trade some of the files, SOCA said.
Marks and McCormick received six month sentences suspended for one year at Leicester Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to computer misuse offences at an earlier hearing in September. They were also each ordered to do 100 hours community service.
Mick Jameson, from SOCA’s Cyber Department, said: “These men stole thousands of copyrighted files belonging to Sony Music.
“Our remit is to protect businesses as well the public, and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement and industry partners to tackle online criminality.”
Speaking after sentencing, Gregor McGill, head of organised crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “James Marks and James McCormick have been sentenced for hacking the servers of one of the world’s largest recorded music companies from their home computers in Daventry and Blackpool respectively.
“Both huge enthusiasts of Michael Jackson, they targeted Sony Music which has the exclusive licence to the late musician’s catalogue.
“At the time of his death, there existed recorded but unreleased Michael Jackson music which aroused the attention of Marks and McCormick.
“It was the prosecution’s case that these men were fully aware that the files they obtained on their computers were subject to copyright and that they took steps to sell on and to share the music with a wider audience in internet forums.
“In simple terms, these men broke into a computer system and took music files that were not theirs to take. That was criminal activity.”
The year after the King of Pop’s death, in 2009, the company signed a seven-year deal with his estate – worth up to $250m (€188.1m) - to sell his unreleased recordings.