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A man who illegally accessed cloud-based accounts owned by several world-famous recording artists has been jailed.
Adrian Kwiatkowski, 23, of Hampton Road, Ipswich, obtained unreleased and unfinished material from the accounts and sold them in exchange for cryptocurrency. An investigation by City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), supported by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), revealed that he made £131,000.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 27 August 2022 to fourteen copyright offences, three counts of computer misuse and three offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment at Ipswich Crown Court on 21 October 2022.
Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt from City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (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. 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 Manhattan District Attorney’s Office launched the investigation in 2019 after the management companies of several musicians reported that an individual, known online as Spirdark, had gained access to a series of accounts and was selling the content that had been saved in them.
It linked the email address used to set up Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account to Kwiatkowski and identified the IP address of the device used to hack one of the accounts as his home address, before referring the investigation to PIPCU.
After further investigation, Kwiatkowski was arrested by PIPCU officers on 12 September 2019. The unit seized seven devices including a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists. A document saved on the hard drive summarised the method he had used to obtain them. Bitcoin, then worth £64,000, was also seized.
A review of Kwiatkowski’s bank account showed that he had deposited a total of £67,275 from February 2018 to September 2019, £61,855 of which was from his cryptocurrency accounts.
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.”
During his police interview, Kwiatkowski admitted he had hacked the musicians and sold their songs online. He also confirmed that he used the alias Spirdark.