Danish man found guilty of fraudulently profiting from music streaming royalties | Denmark

A Danish man has been sentenced to prison in a “historic” case after being found guilty of fraudulently profiting from royalties on hundreds of tracks on music streaming sites.

In the country’s first case of its kind, the 53-year-old man from East Jutland, whom the Danish press has decided not to name, was convicted on Thursday of making at least 2m Danish kroner (£229,676) from artificially generated streams of “several hundred” music tracks.

Prosecutors had said that the numbers of streams required to generate that amount of money could not have been generated by genuine users and that unauthorised techniques were likely to have been deployed instead.

He was also found guilty by the court in Aarhus of breaching copyright on 37 of the tracks, which were edited versions of other musicians’ work. Prosecutors had accused him of taking works from other artists, changing their length and tempo, and publishing them under his own name.

He was sentenced to one year and six months – three months of which he must serve in prison – and the judge confiscated 2m Danish kroner (half of which will be taken from the man and half from his company). He was also fined 200,000 Danish kroner.

Such was the volume of the artificially generated streams that he became Denmark’s 46th highest-earning composer for streaming between 2014 and 2017.

Musicians, artists, composers and copyright campaigners hailed what they described as a historic verdict.

Maria Fredenslund, the chief executive of the Danish Rights Alliance, which reported the case in 2018, said: “We are pleased that the court has affirmed that streaming fraud is deeply criminal and serious. It’s a historic verdict that sends a strong signal about the severity of stream manipulation challenges. The case also shows that this type of fraud can be detected, and that both rights holders and authorities take the issue seriously.”

She said it also sets an important precedent for the future. “It will be an important starting point to prevent similar cases in the future, especially with the development within artificial intelligence.”

Anna Lidell, chair of Autor, the largest Danish association for composers, songwriters, lyricists and producers, said: “It’s truly an important and historic case, and it sends a message that you cannot infringe upon our rights as songwriters.”

She added: “The man cheated his way to millions of listens, but also violated copyright by speeding up the tracks and releasing them. It’s a mockery to those who struggle to make music every day and earn peanuts.”

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He was originally accused of making 4.38m kroner from streams of 689 pieces of music across services including Spotify, Apple Music and YouSee Musik. But on Thursday, the court said it did not have sufficient data to confirm exactly how many artificially generated tracks were played, how many times or the royalties generated.

Amir Amirian, the senior specialist prosecutor on the case, told the Guardian: “This is a principal case and from what I know it’s the first of its type in Denmark. This is important because if we see similar cases in the future this will be the primary case to refer to and it’s important from my perspective that the judge ruled that this is data fraud. This is actually illegal, it’s not a gap in legislation or something like that.”

He added that he hoped the case would send a clear warning to others not to attempt such schemes.

The convicted man indicated on Thursday that he would appeal against the verdict in the high court.

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