A British court has sentenced an Everton man who admitted to uploading and distributing pirated songs to 12 months in prison, a hefty sentence authorities and members of the music industry hope will send a message to other copyright infringers.
It's at least the second time in recent years that a tough sentence has been handed down in the U.K. for similar offenses. In 2014, two men behind the copyright infringing forum Dancing Jesus were sentenced to a total of 53 months in prison. That same year, three co-founders of notorious torrent site The Pirate Bay were sentenced to various prison terms in various European courts.
Wayne Evans, 39, pleaded guilty on Oct. 7 to two counts of distributing material infringing copyright and one count of possession of articles (i.e., computers and other equipment) for use in the fraud. The guilty plea arrived a month after police, who were accompanied by a TV crew filming a documentary about counterfeiting, found and seized several computers and hard drives during a raid of Evans' house.
Evans' operation was two-pronged. An investigation helmed by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), with assistance from U.K. collecting society PRS for Music, found that the aspiring DJ uploaded bundles of top 40 chart songs to several torrent sites each week, then would use three "conduit" sites he ran to direct users to the tracks. Evans also specialized in directing people to vocal-less songs, which are popular among DJs.
The court heard that Evans' batches of songs were downloaded roughly 524,000 times, and that the DJ songs were downloaded about 136,000 times. According to PRS for Music, Evans potentially cost the music industry millions of pounds during his operation; the Liverpool Echo reports that losses to PRS alone during a one-year period was calculated at £1,054,689 ($1.3 million).
Evans' "conduit" sites were deejayportal.com, deejayportal.co.uk and oldskoolscouse.co.uk, all of which were hosted by GoDaddy.
Speaking in court, Evans' defense attorney David Watson argued that his client was not motivated by profit, and that the industry's actual losses were "difficult to quantify in this case, because not every illegal download leads to the loss of a legitimate sale."
The prosecution sought to make Evans an example to deter future piracy, as well as cast his actions as having a wide-ranging impact on jobs and the livelihoods of artists.
"Today’s sentencing will suggest to others that illegally distributing music is not without its consequences," lead detective Steven Kettle said in a statement. "Evans caused significant loss to the music industry and his actions will have effected jobs across the music industry."
Added Simon Bourn, PRS' head of litigation, enforcement and anti-piracy: "Music piracy on a commercial scale is a serious criminal offence and this sentencing by the Crown Court acknowledges that. Copyright infringement has a severe impact on the livelihoods of creators and so it is important that PRS for Music, alongside PIPCU, continues to champion and protect our members' rights. We hope that today’s sentencing sends a message to all those involved in this type of criminal activity, that consequences will follow."