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Jail sentences for U.K. music pirates

Rights collecting society defrauded of license fees

U.K. music bodies the BPI and PPL are hailing the success of a joint legal action which has resulted in prison sentences for the father and son team behind a operation selling pirated music to clubs in north-east England.

Labels body the BPI and neighboring rights collecting society PPL claimed that the pair, aided by a third defendant, had incorporated PPL license fees into their customer quotations but made no payments, defrauding PPL of approximately £550,000 ($832,000) between 2003 and 2009. PPL collects performance right license fees on behalf of U.K. labels and performers.

The sentencing took place in Newcastle Crown Court July 8. All three were charged with breaches of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and found guilty of distributing music systems containing pirated and unlicensed music to pubs and clubs across the north-east of England.

During the course of the case, Malcolm Wylie, 59, of Gateshead, admitted one count of distributing infringing copyright work between May 2003 and January 2009. He was sentenced to three years in prison and banned from taking any position as a company director for 10 years.

His son, Peter Wylie, 27, was also found guilty of two counts of the same offence. He was given a nine-month prison sentence and a 15-month sentence, to run concurrently. The third defendant, William Ross, was given a 36-week prison sentence, suspended for one year as part of a community order

The Wylies operated a number of music system distribution companies, including Access All Areas and Rent-a-system.co.uk. In court, the prosecuting lawyer David Groome had said "the defendants' business obtained the music by illegally downloading it from the Internet and by copying it from CDs."

When passing the sentence, judge Guy Whitburn commented that "a clearer more flagrant breach of copyright law is hard to find" and "intellectual property is property -- and stealing it is a crime."

"The judge clearly recognized the significant value and importance of intellectual property rights and sentenced the defendants accordingly," said PPL head of dubbing & tariff development Richard Stewart in a statement.

Added BPI's director of anti-piracy David Wood: "The defendants made a considerable income from supplying unlicensed and illegally downloaded music to pubs and clubs in the North of England and their actions have not only harmed the music industry but also those landlords who, in difficult economic times, believed they were paying for a legitimate service when in fact they were also being exploited."