January 12, 2013 15:01

Hackers sentenced after stealing unreleased Michael Jackson songs from Sony

Two men avoid jail time, but receive six month suspended sentences

Hackers sentenced after stealing unreleased Michael Jackson songs from Sony

Photo: PA

Two men who were charged with hacking into confidential databases and stealing unreleased material by Michael Jackson from Sony have avoided prison sentences, according to reports.

The BBC says that James Marks, 27, from Northants and James McCormick, 26, from Blackpool were given six month sentences suspended for a year and were also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to computer misuse offences.

Leicester Crown Court heard how the pair downloaded up to 7,000 files including music by the likes of Beyonce and Elvis Presley and were arrested in May 2011. They were investigated by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), who said that they had also uncovered chatlogs from their computers which showed they had intended to sell the files.

Mick Jameison, from SOCA's Cyber Department, said: "These men stole thousands of copyrighted files belonging to Sony Music. Our remit is to protect businesses as well the public, and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement and industry partners to tackle online criminality."

The court also heard how there was a security flaw in the system used by Sony Music to share files with people outside the firm and, although Marks and McCormick were not the first to exploit it, they had used an adapted programme to enable them to download files more quickly.

The duo claimed they had only wanted to gather evidence that some of the posthumous material released by Jackson hadn't featured the singer's voice, after reports circulated last year that some of the vocals which appeared on the album 'Michael' had featured another singer. Sony have always denied the rumours.

Speaking outside the court after the case, Marks admitted he was sorry for downloading the files - although he did insist that he was still determined to prove that some of the tracks on 'Michael' hadn't been recorded by the late singer.

In October of last year, it was revealed that Michael Jackson is no longer the world's highest earning dead celebrity. The King Of Pop's estate was still in second place in Forbes' annual list of top earning dead celebrities, after bringing in earnings of $145 million (£90 million), but the King of Pop was ousted from the top spot by his late friend, the actress Elizabeth Taylor, with earnings of $210 million (£130 million).

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