While at some stages wildly popular in the East, to most in the West a night at a karaoke bar is probably more closely associated with too many beers and individuals belting out classics wearing the aural equivalent of beer goggles.
The pastime is considered by some as a bit of a joke but karaoke is big business. According to the people behind the web-based Playstation software SingOn, the global karaoke market could be worth as much as $10 billion.
Since most karaoke content is now digital, it’s also prime for pirating. Mainstream movies, music, applications and video games are the most pirated media items on the Internet today, no doubt, but the karaoke sub-genre has a niche but somewhat fanatical following.
Today, however, there is one less place online for KJ’s (karaoke jockeys) to get their fix.
On Wednesday the users of Karaoke-World, one of the few dedicated karaoke torrent trackers online, were informed that a disaster had befallen the site after around five years online.
“Just to let you all know the owner of kW was taken to the police station and had to close the site down by the Internet police so sorry we are no longer,” the site announced.
It now transpires that kW was being monitored not by the BPI or IFPI as is usually the case with music-based sites, but UK-based licensing and royalty group PRS for Music.
PRS make available so-called ‘KAR’ licenses which grants holders permission to manufacture and distribute karaoke on discs and in other formats. The license also covers the reproduction of lyrics for display on screen at the same time as the karaoke music is being played. It seems very unlikely that Karaoke-World possessed such a license.
As a result PRS for Music teamed up with PIPCU, the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, to close down the site.
On Wednesday a 46-year-old man was arrested in Dewsbury in the north of England and taken to a police station in Halifax. Although no names have been released, the kW domain was registered in the name of ‘DJ Mikey L’. Although the name is clearly a pseudonym, there are dozens of karaoke-focused torrents bearing the same name.
“The unlicensed BitTorrent site directed users to a catalogue of tens of thousands of copyrighted music files, in particular the latest chart music and karaoke hits,” PIPCU said in a statement.
“Like most BitTorrent trackers, the site had rules for its members to abide by. One of the rules required users to immediately ‘seed’ files, which means to upload any file they have downloaded so that others can download it too. If a file is not seeded for more than 24 hours, the user was deemed as a ‘Hit and Run’ and their account was disabled.”
PIPCU’s statement also introduces a commercial element to the site, although the site is unlikely to have been a huge money spinner.
“The music service also offered VIP memberships for users of the website, which ranged from £5.00 to £90.00,” police said.
“The public needs to be aware that by accessing sites like this, they are putting money directly in the hands of criminals, which often then funds other serious organized crime, as well as putting their own financial and personal details at risk of being compromised and used for other fraudulent scams,” PIPCU chief Detective Chief Inspector Danny Medlycott said in a statement.
“These websites are stealing from the creative industries that employ thousands of people and PIPCU will continue to work closely with our partners to tackle the criminals behind these sites and bring them to justice.”
Simon Bourn, Head of Litigation, Enforcement and Anti-Piracy for PRS for Music said that songwriters and creators deserve protection from unlicensed operations.
“PRS for Music’s Anti-Piracy Unit is committed to actively pursuing those who use our songwriters’ and composers’ repertoire without permission, particularly the operation of online music services without the necessary licensing. The unit’s dedication in this case, involving careful investigative support which it provided to the police, ensured that an unlicensed UK-based BitTorrent music service for karaoke was located and closed down,” Bourn said.
Karaoke-World sister site TheNutBox.info is also currently offline.
TorrentFreak contacted ‘DJ Mikey L’ for comment and we’ll update as soon as a response is received.
Update: Affiliated site “Seed for Speed” has shut down voluntarily.