Pre-release music and movie piracy is always viewed as particularly damaging by the entertainment industries. When an item leaks in advance of an official product becoming available there is no legal competition, meaning that pirates scoop up what in some instances could be sales.
Leakers come in all shapes and sizes and many have been arrested in countries including the United States and UK. Some are serial leakers with so-called ‘scene’ groups but others have simply got their hands on an album via legal means a couple of days ahead of an official release.
While many of its European neighbors have, up until recently Spain had never identified or arrested a music leaker. At a press conference yesterday, police confirmed that progress has been made.
The story began on October 24 when a posting appeared on the web forum Manerasdevivir.com offering a pre-release copy of an album by Warner-signed rock band Extremoduro. For 10 euros the poster said that site users could obtain a copy, posting a photograph of the CD plus a couple of low-quality rips to show he had the goods in hand.
However, somehow the band itself found out about the offer and decided to try to stem the leak themselves. Through a representative they spoke to the soon-to-be-leaker and pleaded with him not to allow the album into the wild. It didn’t go well.
“Do not threaten to report me, because [if you do] tomorrow I will [release the album] to all music forums and YouTube,” the leaker reportedly responded.
That “cocky” attitude resulted in a complaint to Spain’s Guardia Civil who launched Operation Agila to track the potential leaker down.
The man turned out be a 31-year-old employee of Novodisc, the company hired to manufacture the band’s CD. He worked in the warehouse which backed up his earlier claims of being able to get other albums in advance of their official release. Police raided the man’s home and found evidence that the forum poster and the warehouse worker were one and the same person.
Police say that the arrest marks the first time they have been able to identify and detain someone responsible for leaking music on to the Internet in advance of its official release. But despite their achievement and swift action, they still couldn’t stop the inevitable.
On November 4 the man apparently made good on his threats to dump the album online. According to the IFPI-affiliated industry group Promusicae by November 7 the album was available for download on 54 sites. Warner Music reacted by incurring costs of 120,000 euros to get the album out in double-quick time.
“The leak of [the album] has been particularly severe because the record company that publishes it was forced to advance their release date by 20 days in order to mitigate the effect of the thousands of illegal downloads taking place,” Guardia Civil said in a statement.
“Activity in some illegal file-sharing networks increased by over 1,000 percent as a result of this leak. Mainly affected are the producers, artists and distributors, since a disk that they had invested many months of work in was being distributed in lower quality files without any financial benefit to their rightful owners.”
Without managing to sell even a single copy for a measly 10 euros, the man now faces copyright infringement charges and a sentence of between six months and two years, four years if the case is deemed to be “serious”.
In the meantime, the album – titled “For all Audiences” – has gone straight into Spain’s charts at the number one position.