Music pirate in £197,000 scam

Courts: Reports from the law courts.
Courts: Reports from the law courts.
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A MUSIC pirate illegally downloaded tracks worth about £197,000 on computer equipment at his home, a court heard.

David Finney set up an internet business selling pirated material but was arrested after British Recorded Music Industry investigators made test purchases and found the CDs they had been sold were fake.

A search of the 60-year-old’s South Yorkshire home in November last year found Finney had been downloading tracks and copying them in his front bedroom.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Martin said Finney had copied nearly 200,000 items which at 97p each would have been worth £197,000 to the music industry.

But it was difficult to work out the figures involved and Finney did not appear to have made much out of the venture.

The prosecutor added: “This kind of activity is costing millions of pounds a year to the industry which has a knock-on effect on employment and clearly is a matter of concern as well as concerning HM Customs and the taxpayer.”

Finney, of Poplar Terrace, Royston, Barnsley, admitted distributing copyright material without a licence from May 1, 2007 to November 22, 2010 when he appeared at Sheffield Crown Court.

A number of payments were identified from his Paypal account and he appeared to have benefited by £12,055 with just over £9,000 in his bank accounts.

Paul O’Shea, defending, showed photographs of the computer equipment seized to the judge and said it was more of a ‘Heath Robinson’ operation than a sophisticated enterprise.

“His income from it year on year is in my submission relatively small,” he said.

Investigators found tens of thousands of tracks stored on one computer system and another computer hard-drive as back-up.

“He is 60 and of previous good character and is not a well man. He is terrified of the prospect of going to prison,” said Mr O’Shea.

Recorder Sandeep Kainth said an aggravating feature of the case was the four-year period over which the copyright material was breached.

Finney could have been facing a jail term of between six months and three years depending on the volume involved and the amount the copyright holders were out of pocket.

The judge said he had made no attempt to hide his identity and there was a ‘degree of naivety’ about the operation. He told him: “It does warrant a custodial sentence but not immediately.”

Finney was given a nine-month jail term suspended for a year.

He will be electronically tagged and subject to a night-time curfew for four months.

The judge also made a confiscation order of his assets of £9,014 was made and he will have to forfeit his pirating equipment and some records subject to talks with the police.