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A man from the northwest England city of Liverpool has been sentenced to 12 months in custody after pleading guilty to illegally distributing chart hits online, potentially costing the music industry millions of pounds and depriving the creators of the content fair remuneration for their work.
In what they describe as a milestone case, the sentencing is the result of a joint investigation between collection society PRS for Music and the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and is the first custodial sentence to arise from the two organisations working together.
On Friday 7 October at Liverpool Crown Court, Wayne Evans pleaded guilty to illegally uploading the UK’s Top 40 singles to various torrent sites as they were announced each week by the Official Charts Company. The 39-year-old was also distributing tracks through his own website, including ‘acappella’ music to be used for DJ-ing and remixing.
PIPCU 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. Funded by 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.
Detective Constable Steven Kettle, who was in charge of the case, said: “Today’s sentencing will suggest to others that illegally distributing music is not without its consequences. Evans caused significant loss to the music industry and his actions will have effected jobs across the music industry. By working with partners such as PRS for Music we are better able to work collaboratively to ensure the best investigation of people like Evans and ensure that they are brought to justice.”
PRS for Music Head of Litigation, Enforcement and Anti-Piracy, Simon Bourn commented: “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.”
This activity forms part of PRS for Music’s continued fight against music piracy on behalf of its members. Recognising the importance of investing in digital tools to help protect the value of its members’ repertoire, earlier in 2016, PRS for Music launched the ‘Member Anti-Piracy System’ (MAPS), a new anti-piracy takedown tool. Developed in partnership with the Publishers Association, MAPS works by tracking and enabling PRS and MCPS members to request takedowns of PRS for Music repertoire that are made publicly available on unlicensed and infringing sites. It also allows members to send takedown notices to Google, which has the power to remove search results that link to the infringing sites.