In 2012, TorrentFreak obtained an IFPI presentation which revealed how the labels had tracked down a music journalist who they claim had been leaking pre-release music. This week we spoke to 'ALEKO' who told us that Sony Music simply left the front door open and he just looked inside. And boy, what did he find....
Three and a half years ago TF stumbled across a little goldmine. For reasons best known to IFPI their Latin America intranet had started spewing private anti-piracy related documents onto a public facing webpage.
We published several reports on the information IFPI had inadvertently revealed to the world, which included an interesting presentation on how pre-release music piracy could be reduced.
One of the slides alleged that a South American blogger called “ALEKO” had been observed by the labels posting pre-release music online. IFPI went on to say that they’d identified ALEKO as a music journalist and in an effort to stop his activities had sent a local investigator to track him down.
According to IFPI, ALEKO told their investigator that he’d been obtaining music from hackers while also confessing to blackmailing producers. So what happened to ALEKO and the investigation into his activities?
This week ALEKO contacted TorrentFreak and subsequently agreed to tell us more about his experiences with the IFPI. Had he really been leaking pre-release music online? Did he know hackers? Had he blackmailed anyone? Is he really a journalist from South America?
“Yes, I’m from Venezuela. That’s true. Right now I’m here just visiting, but I live in Bogotá, Colombia,” ALEKO told TF.
“I’m 27-years-old and well, I’ve done a little bit of everything after the music thing. I used to work at LaPatilla.com, Venezuela’s biggest news website.”
As the sixth most popular site in the country, LaPatilla.com is definitely influential. ALEKO said he was interested in the perks of the job there, such as gaining access to concerts and press interviews and, of course, experiencing pre-release music.
But while ALEKO did get to hear music early, how did he get copies of tracks up front? Well, it turns out that much like when the IFPI accidentally published their anti-piracy reports to the public, a huge record label had no idea how to properly secure its servers.
“I got the pre-release material from Sony Music’s servers. They had a BIG bug on internal ecards but it wasn’t like hacking,” ALEKO explains.
According to the former journalist Sony would provide him with a URL, much like the one shown below.
However, the only thing that changed with each item of content was the ‘assetId’ at the end of the URL. Amending this would provide access to endless material.
“The only thing you needed to do was change the number at the end of that link (like for example changing 365400 to 365401). Each number was a different file such as PDFs, MP3s, WAVs, ZIPs, RARs, internal files like budgets, demos, instrumentals, acapellas, etc.”
But one item in particular remains particularly close to ALEKO’s heart.
“I think the most treasured thing we found on that server was an unreleased music video by Michael Jackson. I never liked him, but this was like gold. I know [some other people] sold it illegally to a few fans,” ALEKO reveals.
But interestingly enough, ALEKO insists that he never leaked full tracks online.
“I posted a few clips on my old Twitter account but that was it, I never leaked full songs or stuff. I knew that what I was doing was kind of illegal, that’s why I never got money benefits from my job at LaPatilla. For me it was enough getting into free concerts and press interviews,” he says.
As an artist and former remixer, ALEKO says that he was really interested in the recording sessions he found on Sony’s servers, particularly acapellas. Obtaining these before anyone else enabled him to quickly get his own remixes to A&R agents. But despite the head start, he had limited mainstream success.
“My mixes never got signed by Sony Music, Universal or a big label because my music wasn’t ‘commercial enough for radio’. I never wanted to make music for radio pop shit, I wanted to give a pop song a club rave feel, so my music would be played in clubs by real DJs,” he says.
But according to the 27-year-old it was his love of remixing and his desire to obtain acapellas by almost any means that eventually led IFPI to his door.
“The only reason IFPI tracked me was because I threatened a producer that I was going to leak a LOT of his recent unfinished stuff if he didn’t send me a couple of acapellas I wanted. I didn’t use my VPN to do that,” he recalls.
“I knew they were somehow watching me because I got a few emails before they appeared at my place. But it wasn’t until I emailed some producers to ask for some stuff that they got my real address. Of course I used fake emails, locations and a paid VPN to secure myself. But that time I think I was stupid enough to forget logging into the VPN.”
A few weeks later, in the first couple of months of 2012, IFPI got personal.
“[Their investigators] came to my place in Caracas, Venezuela, and told me they were the FBI, which is pretty stupid. They called into my apartment intercom and asked for my real name. I went down and they started threatening me and talking about jail,” ALEKO says.
“They make me sign a piece of paper that said something like ‘I, [real name redacted] am not going to leak any pre-release music anymore’ or face getting sued by them. I was of course scared because I wasn’t in a place that allowed me to pay for a good defense like [The Pirate Bay’s] Gottfrid Svartholm or Peter Sunde had. They made me feel like shit, called my job and of course I got fired.”
After his run in with IFPI, ALEKO stopped making remixes and of course no longer had a job as a journalist. While he’s since begun remixing again and still loves music, he could never see himself working for a label.
“Of course, the money would be great but that freedom they take away from the artist isn’t worth it. Its like selling your soul to the devil, you know?” he concludes.