Judge hands suspended sentences to two men found guilty of offences under the Computer Misuse Act and stealing 'King of Pop's' music
Two British men who hacked into the servers of Sony Music and illegally downloaded thousands of music files have been handed suspended sentences.
James Marks, aged 27, and James McCormick, aged 26, escaped jail after pleading guilty to offences under the Computer Misuse Act. The prosecution argued that the duo were planning to sell or trade the music files of artists such as Michael Jackson.
Gregor McGill, head of the Crown Prosecution Service's (CPs) organised crime division, said Marks from Daventry and McCormick from Blackpool "broke into a computer system and took music files that were not theirs to take. That was criminal activity."
Marks and McCormick, fans of Michael Jackson's music, met on a fan website forum. McGill said: "At the time of his death, there existed recorded but unreleased Michael Jackson music which aroused the attention of Marks and McCormick."
To get access to these tracks and others, the two men hacked into Sony's servers in 2011 using a compromised e-card. McCormick also wrote an additional script to speed up the download process.
Sony was alerted to the men's activities and contacted the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which launched an investigation. The two men were arrested in May of that year for offences under the Computer Misuse Act.
This law makes it an offence for a person to knowingly cause "a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer, or to enable any such access to be secured" without authorisation.
In total SOCA said Marks and McCormick had downloaded 7,900 files to their home PCs, including completed tracks, unreleased tracks, and artwork and videos relating to Jackson and other artists.
Further evidence of their activities such as computer chat logs were also found on their computer hard disks. SOCA said this showed the men had not just downloaded the files for personal use but planned to sell and trade on the tracks and artwork that they had.
McGill added that Marks and McCormick, who pleaded guilty to offences under the Act in September 2012, "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".
They have now received six-month sentences suspended for one year at Leicester Crown Court. They were also ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work.
Mick Jameson, from SOCA, 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."
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