Monday, January 14, 2013

Hackers who stole Michael Jackson songs avoid jail

Sean Michaels/The Gaurdian UK

Photograph: Kevin Mazur/AP
Two British men have narrowly avoided jail after stealing hundreds of unreleased recordings by Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and others.

James Marks and James McCormick pleaded guilty to hacking into US servers owned by Sony Music Entertainment and downloading almost 8,000 files. They received six-month sentences, suspended for one year, and were each ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.

Marks, 27, is from Daventry, Northamptonshire, and McCormick, 26, is from Blackpool. The two men used their home computers to exploit a weakness in Sony's servers, hunting – they claimed – for evidence that some of Jackson's posthumous releases were sung by an impersonator.

When arrested in March 2011, they initially denied all charges. "[Marks and McCormick] are eager to point out to Michael Jackson's fans and family that they would never do anything to harm the legacy that is Michael Jackson's music," their solicitor told Billboard. The pair eventually agreed to a plea deal.

"In simple terms, these men broke into a computer system and took music files that were not theirs to take," Gregor McGill, head of organisedcrime at the Crown Prosecution Service, told reporters on Friday. "It was the prosecution's case that these men 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."

This weekend, Marks tweeted that he had "mixed emotions" about the end of the court battle. Although he maintains that he downloaded 300 illicit files, not 7,900, "[I] fully accept I accessed the server". "I'm grateful to the judge for being lenient," he wrote, "and apologise to Sony … I wish to move on and rebuild my life."

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