Dancing Jesus Music Pirates Receive Jail Sentences

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Two of the individuals behind now-defunct copyright infringing music forum Dancing Jesus have been sentenced to a combined total of 53 months in prison, following a private prosecution brought about by the BPI. 

The owner and administrator of the site, 26-year-old Kane Robinson, of North Shields, was handed down a 32-month prison sentence, reduced from four years, for pleading guilty to the illegal distribution of music.   

Richard Graham, of Broughton, Leicestershire, also pleaded guilty to illegally distributing over 8,000 music files on Dancing Jesus, around two thirds of which were pre-release. The 22-year-old was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court to 21 months in prison.

Dancing Jesus was a U.K.-based forum that specialized in offering access to pre-release music titles from a large number of predominantly British and U.S. pop and rock acts via cyberlockers such as Rapidshare, Filesonic and Mediafire. According to U.K. labels trade body, BPI, more than 22,500 links to 250,000 individual titles were made available via Dancing Jesus between 2006 and 2011 with more than 70 million user visits occurring during its life span. 

The site – whose Twitter account once boasted "because we listen to music before you" – was shutdown in September 2011, following a joint investigation by British labels trade body BPI, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI), City of London Police and the Intellectual Property Office. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also participated in the investigation, seizing the site's servers in Dallas where content was being hosted. 

David Wood, director of BPI's Copyright Protection Unit, said that the tough sentences handed down sent "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 U.K. or overseas." 

Also commenting on the case, Jeremy Banks, IFPI director of anti-piracy, added: "This case is an excellent example of law enforcement agencies cooperating 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."

Speaking to TorrentFreak, 22-year-old Graham challenged the impact that file-sharing sites such as Dancing Jesus actually have on music revenues, however. 

"I am still amazed by the fact that so much time and money was expended [prosecuting] a small website of music lovers who spent way more on music, gigs, etc, than the average person. I myself spent thousands," TorrentFreak quotes Graham as saying following his guilty plea. 

"It's also clear that no money was made from any activity," adds Graham, who says he "was at school taking my exams" when first investigated for music piracy.