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Michael Jackson hackers avoid jail over stolen tracks

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Two British men have avoided prison sentences after admitting they hacked into Sony Music's servers and stole music tracks, including previously-unreleased material by Michael Jackson.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said that James Marks, 27, and James McCormick, 26, breached Sony's servers in the US and downloaded thousands of tacks.

Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley

© Rex Features



Alongside songs by the late Jackson, the hackers also downloaded music by artists including JLS, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

In total, they downloaded around 7,000 files, either completed tracks or their component parts, along with artwork and videos, according to SOCA.

Marks and McCormick were arrested in May 2011, and SOCA identified from chat logs on their computers that they intended to sell or trade some of the files.

After pleading guilty to computer misuse offences at a hearing in September 2012, the two men were each handed six-month sentences suspended for one year at Leicester Crown Court last Friday. They were ordered to do 100 hours of community service.

Photo gallery - Michael Jackson, the highs:
After the sentencing hearing, Crown Prosecution Service head of organised crime Gregor McGill told The Daily Telegraph that Marks and McCormick had actively targeted Sony Music's servers.

This was because, after Jackson's death in 2009, his estate signed a seven-year deal with Sony Music, worth up to $250 million (£158 million), including rights to sell his unreleased recordings.

"Both huge enthusiasts of Michael Jackson, they targeted Sony Music which has the exclusive licence to the late musician's catalogue," said McGill.

"At the time of his death, there existed recorded but unreleased Michael Jackson music which aroused the attention of Marks and McCormick.

"It was the prosecution's case that these men were fully aware that the files they obtained on their computers were subject to copyright and that they took steps to sell on and to share the music with a wider audience in internet forums.

"In simple terms, these men broke into a computer system and took music files that were not theirs to take. That was criminal activity."

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