British Trade Body BPI to Prosecute File-Sharing Forum Dancing Jesus

In September 2011, the copyright infringing internet forum Dancing Jesus was shut down and two of its associates were arrested, following a joint investigation by British labels trade body BPI and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI).

This month, just over three years since those arrests were made, the case finally comes to trial at Newcastle Crown Court in a private prosecution being made by BPI. With criminal proceedings due to begin in the coming weeks, BPI declined to comment on the case although a spokesperson did confirm that the trial was the result of a "private prosecution being brought by the BPI following an initial joint investigation by BPI and the IFPI, with assistance from US Department of Homeland Security and the City of London Police."

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The now-defunct U.K.-based forum Dancing Jesus specialized in offering access to pre-release music titles from a large number of predominantly U.K. and U.S. pop and rock acts, with its since-abandoned Twitter account boasting "because we listen to music before you."

It is understood that following BPI and IFPI's joint investigation the U.S. Department of Homeland Security assisted in the case by seizing the site's server in Dallas where the content was being hosted. The site's administrator and one of its most prolific uploaders, reportedly known as "Trix," were arrested by City of London Police in September 2011.

According to a BPI spokesperson, "One defendant in the case has already pleaded guilty to illegally distributing music and will be sentenced at the end of the trial."

The BPI's private prosecution against Dancing Jesus – the trade body's first such action in a number of years - follows the conviction of Philip Danks in August this year for the recording, uploading and distribution of the Universal Pictures film Fast and Furious 6. That too was a private prosecution, brought about by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), and resulted in Danks and his co-defendant Michael Bell being sentenced to 33 months' imprisonment and a community service order, respectively.

In 2012, FACT also secured a criminal conviction against Anton Vickerman, founder of surfthechannel.com which provided links to infringing TV shows and films. Vickerman was sentenced to four years in jail at Newcastle Crown Court.

Private prosecutions against music infringing sites have, however, historically been less successful, with Alan Ellis, the creator/administrator of music linking site OiNK and the first British man to be charged for illegal file sharing, found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud the music industry in 2010.