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UK-based hacker who sold unreleased Ed Sheeran tracks jailed

By | Published on Monday 24 October 2022

Ed Sheeran

A hacker who illegally accessed and then sold unreleased music by Ed Sheeran and Lil Uzi Vert has been handed an eighteen month jail sentence.

Adrian Kwiatkowski from Ipswich pleaded guilty back in August to fourteen counts of criminal copyright infringement plus three counts of computer misuse and three offences under the Proceeds Of Crime Act.

It followed an investigation that began at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in the US in 2019 when the management companies of several artists reported that someone going by the name of Spirdark had hacked into a number of cloud-storage accounts and downloaded unreleased music files. He was then seeking to sell those files for bitcoin.

Investigators in New York connected the email address used to set up Spirdark’s cryptocurrency wallet to Kwiatkowski and identified that the IP address of the device he’d used to hack one of the artist cloud storage accounts was in the UK. At that point the case was referred to the City Of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit, aka PIPCU.

Officers from PIPCU then arrested Kwiatkowski and seized his hard drive, finding 1263 unreleased songs by 89 artists. He also had Bitcoin then worth £64,000, plus officers discovered he had deposited £67,275 into his bank account during 2018 and 2019, £61,855 of which was from his cryptocurrency accounts.

When interviewed by police, Kwiatkowski quickly admitted to hacking the accounts of musicians and selling their songs online under the alias Spirdark. He then pleaded guilty to copyright crimes at Ipswich Magistrates Court in August, before being sentenced on Friday.

Welcoming the sentencing, Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt from PIPCU said: “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”.

“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”, he went on. “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”.

Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg Jr added: “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”, he continued, “and through our enduring partnership with PIPCU and law enforcement organisations 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”.