Press Release: Man sentenced for over £500,000 of karaoke copyright offences

Man sentenced for over £500,000 of karaoke copyright offences
This press release is from City of London Police

Steve Mather, 63, of Beaufort Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, has been sentenced to eight months suspended at Manchester Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to copyright offences for illegally creating and distributing karaoke tracks online without permission. Digitop have estimated their loss to be £485,000, while Sunfly Karaoke Ltd’s loss is projected to be £29,593.50

In 2015, the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) received a referral from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) when one of their members, Digitop Ltd, became aware of online accounts called KaraokeRG and Karaokekid. These accounts were making torrented karaoke tracks available to the public without permission from the rights holders, Digitop and Sunfly Karaoke Ltd.

Two websites were discovered which appeared to be linked to the Karaokekid account, one of which was connected to a PayPal account for donations.

In February 2015, BPI made evidential downloads of eight albums, four belonging to Digitop and four belonging to Sunfly Karaoke Ltd. Digitop confirmed that the files were exclusively licensed to their trading name, ‘Mr Entertainer’ and contained copyrighted recordings and their trademarks. Sunfly Karaoke confirmed that the CDs contained a total of 141 tracks which are all owned and licensed by them. Sunfly also confirmed the KaraokeRG is not authorised to reproduce, create, replicate, copy, distribute, lend or hire karaoke music files which are owned by them.

In December 2015, PIPCU officers conducted a search warrant at Mather’s house and a number of items were seized, including a laptop. Emails were found on the laptop that linked to the website used by Mather. Between May 2015 and November 2015, Mather received £172.73 via the Paypal account linked to KaraokeKid.

Mather was arrested and interviewed on 15 December 2015 at Bury Police Station by PIPCU officers, and subsequently charged.

Digitop have estimated their loss to be £485,000, based on 44,000 illegal downloads over three years, while the revenue lost by Sunfly Karaoke Ltd from the copying and distributing of the four albums concerned is projected to be £29,593.50.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector, Nick Court of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said: “By making these tracks available to the public, this not only impacts upon the businesses involved, but also upon those who work for them by putting jobs at risk and negatively impacting upon the progress of the company.

“Mather has caused these companies to suffer significant financial losses.

“We take these crimes and the integrity of the UK creative industry very seriously. We put every effort into protecting their work.”

Kiaron Whitehead, BPI General Counsel said: “People love karaoke, but the group behind ‘KaraokeRG’ spoil the fun and cause serious harm to legitimate hard-working karaoke music companies.

“KaraokeRG’s ringleader Steven Mather liked to use the nickname ‘KaraokeKid’.  But, as he has learnt, the internet is not the Wild West. The BPI is pleased to have supported the City of London Police in their investigation into this case – which serves as a further clear warning and deterrent to music pirates that they will not go undetected and unpunished.”

Matt Cope, Deputy Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office said: “Protecting our music industry is vital to help grow our economy, so I am pleased to hear that through partnership working the British Phonographic Industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit have brought this man to justice.

The UK has one of the best IP enforcement regimes in the world and I hope this acts as a warning that action can and will be taken.”

Gary Oates, Managing Director of Digitop Ltd, owners of “Mr Entertainer Karaoke”, one of the karaoke companies directly affected by the case said: “We are extremely pleased at the outcome of this case; fighting piracy is an on-going battle for all content producers.

“Unlike the big music record labels, most karaoke companies are small independent businesses that operate on extremely tight budgets yet invest heavily in producing high quality karaoke recordings that we are very proud of.

“The illegal uploading and sharing of karaoke tracks does huge damage to our industry as it reduces our ability to generate revenue from legitimate platforms. This affects us financially and impedes our ability to invest in more productions that honest karaoke enthusiasts can enjoy.”

A representative for Sunfly Karaoke Ltd said: “The blatant practice of illegally ripping and sharing digital karaoke and audio content on torrent sites and hard drives has been rife over the past ten years. This has caused severe hardship to musicians and producers and has caused many companies to go bankrupt. It is therefore pleasing to see that the BPI are able to have some success in prosecuting individuals who steal music in this way. We hope this acts as a deterrent and going forward anyone looking for karaoke downloads or streaming, purchases it from legitimate sources such as sunflykaraoke.com.”

About PIPCU

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.The operationally independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.

About the BPI (British Phonographic Industry)

The BPI is the UK record labels’ association that promotes British music and champions the UK’s recorded music industry – the world’s fourth largest and the biggest exporter of recorded music in the world after the US. The BPI helps to safeguard the rights of its members and of all the artists, performers and record label members of collecting body PPL – who collectively create around 99 per cent of all legitimate sales and streams of music in the UK. The BPI’s membership consists of well over 400 independent labels and the UK’s three ‘major’ companies, which together account for up to 85 per cent of legitimate domestic music consumption.

In 2017 UK artists were responsible for one in eight artist albums sold worldwide. The BPI helps to promote British music overseas through numerous trade missions as well as through the Music Exports Growth Scheme, which since 2014 has awarded over £2.6 million in government funding to 178 music projects benefitting mainly independently-signed artists. The BPI provides valuable insights, training and networking with its free masterclasses and presentations and through its Innovation Hub, Insight Sessions, WisdomWednesday events, and its authoritative yearbook and reports.

The BPI certifies The BRIT Certified Awards – the iconic Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards Programme; co-owns the Official Charts; owns and organises The BRIT Awards with Mastercard – which, through the BPI’s charitable arm, The BRIT Trust, has helped to raise over £20m for music education and wellbeing charities, including the BRIT School and Nordoff-Robbins music therapy.  The BPI is also home to the Hyundai Mercury Prize.

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