Hacker who stole Ed Sheeran’s unreleased music to sell for crypto gets 18-month jail term in the UK

Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock
Ed Sheeran at the at Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 23, 2018 in Berlin, Germany

A hacker who illegally accessed cloud-based accounts of 89 artists — including Ed Sheeran and Lil Uzi Vert — and sold their unreleased music on the dark web in exchange for cryptocurrency was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Adrian Kwiatkowski of Hampton Road, Ipswich, was found guilty of obtaining unreleased and unfinished material from the said accounts and made £131,000 ($148,000), according to the City of London Police on Friday (October 21).

The 23-year-old hacker pleaded guilty to 14 copyright offenses, three counts of computer misuse and three offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act at the Ipswich Magistrates Court on August 27.

Most recently, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail at Ipswich Crown Court.

“Kwiatkowski was a highly skilled individual who unfortunately saw potential in using his abilities unlawfully. Not only did he cause several artists and their production companies significant financial harm, he deprived them of the ability to release their own work,” Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt from City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said.

Added Detective Constable Fryatt: “This investigation is an excellent example of the way PIPCU and its partner agencies work across international borders to identify those involved in criminal activity. Kwiatkowski will now face the consequences of his actions, and I hope this result will also make his customers refrain from purchasing illegal content again.”

The sentence marks the culmination of a yearslong investigation into Kwiatkowski, which began when the management companies of several musicians reported that the hacker, known online as Spirdark, gained access to a series of accounts and sold unreleased music online.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office launched the investigation in 2019. The probe managed to track Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account, as well as the IP address of the device used to hack one of the accounts as his home address.

Kwiatkowski was then arrested on September 12, 2019 following further investigation and seven of his devices including a hard drive containing 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists were uncovered. About £64,000 worth of Bitcoin was also seized, London Police said.

A separate statement from the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on Friday said a search of Kwiatkowski’s Apple Mac laptop uncovered 565 audio files, which included songs by Vert and Sheeran.

Further, the investigation found that Kwiatkowski deposited a total of £67,275 from February 2018 to September 2019 to his bank account and £61,855 of which was from his cryptocurrency accounts.

Commenting on the sentencing, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg, Jr. said: “Cybercrime knows no borders, and this individual executed a complex scheme to steal unreleased music in order to line his own pockets.”

“New York and London are cultural capitals of the world, and through our enduring partnership with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and law enforcement organizations around the world, we have sent a clear message that we have the ability and tools to stop this type of criminal activity and protect victims,” Bragg added.

CPS’s Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS Serious Economic Organised and International Directorate Joanne Jakymec said, “Kwiatkowski had complete disregard for the musician’s creativity and hard work producing original songs and the subsequent loss of earnings. He selfishly stole their music to make money for himself by selling it on the dark web.”

 Music Business Worldwide

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