A computer hacker named Adrian Kwiatkowski, operating under the alias ‘Spirdark,’ made substantial profits of over £130,000 by illicitly acquiring unreleased music from renowned recording artists, including global sensation Ed Sheeran.
Kwiatkowski’s modus operandi involved selling the stolen tracks for cryptocurrency on the dark web. However, his nefarious activities were ultimately brought to justice, leading to his conviction and subsequent confiscation order to repay £100,000.
Adrian Kwiatkowski, a resident of Ipswich, England, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October of the previous year following his conviction for stealing unreleased music from numerous artists, including Ed Sheeran and American rapper Lil Uzi Vert.
With more than 1,200 unreleased tracks discovered on his hard drive, Kwiatkowski’s audacious actions highlighted the extent of his unauthorized access to private online accounts belonging to various management companies.
Kwiatkowski’s illicit online activities eventually attracted attention and were reported. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation that successfully traced the email address linked to the creation of his cryptocurrency account back to his residential address.
This breakthrough established a crucial connection between Kwiatkowski and his pseudonymous online persona, ‘Spirdark.’
Guilty Pleas and Legal Consequences: Facing the weight of evidence against him, Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including 14 copyright offenses, three counts of computer misuse, and three offenses under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Such a plea acknowledged his involvement in the unlawful acquisition and distribution of copyrighted material. Consequently, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Landmark Confiscation Order: On May 26, 2023, the court issued a significant confiscation order, demanding Kwiatkowski to repay £101,053 to the authorities within three months.
Failure to meet this deadline would result in an additional 18 months added to his prison sentence. Remarkably, this case marked the first instance of cryptocurrency confiscation by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
The order necessitates the surrender of 2.64 bitcoins valued at £49,528, along with £51,975 from his bank accounts.
Protecting Artists and the Music Industry: The successful conviction and subsequent confiscation order in Kwiatkowski’s case garnered praise from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
This landmark development serves as a stern warning to individuals engaging in similar criminal activities, highlighting the potential harm inflicted upon artists and the music industry as a whole.
By curbing the illicit monetization of stolen music, law enforcement agencies contribute to safeguarding the efforts of artists and the dedicated teams supporting them in the creation and release of their music.