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Music streamer that spent years streaming other artists' work as their own gets convicted of fraud in Denmark

 A photograph of a wired set of headphones, resting on top of an open, silver metal coloured laptop, on a light wood desk.
A photograph of a wired set of headphones, resting on top of an open, silver metal coloured laptop, on a light wood desk.

You're probably aware that the music industry makes a pretty penny or two from music streaming services, though the artists themselves get a fraction of that from each stream. Not so in the case of an unnamed 53-year-old man from Denmark, who's just been convicted of fraud to the tune of two million Kroner (roughly $290k/$230k), by passing off other people's music as his own and accruing millions of streams through Spotify, Apple Music, and other services.

The outcome of the trial, as reported by The Guardian, marks a small moment in Danish law, as apparently this is the first time that such a case has ever taken place in that country. Originally, the prosecution were looking to press charges of fraud and copyright abuse for a sum of just over 4.3 million Kroner ($620k/$500k) but the court decided that there was insufficient evidence to confirm exactly how many streams were played or the amount of royalties generated.

Between 2014 and 2019, the streamer in question created nearly 700 tracks by taking music from other artists, adjusting the length, tempo, and overall edit of them, and publishing them under his company's name. The court found him guilty of breaching copyright on 37 of the tracks.

However, to pull in that kind of revenue, the total number of streams would have to run into the millions of plays. For example, in 2021, Apple stated that $0.01 per play was its average royalty pay out, so if we use that figure for $290k, you get a total of 29 million streams. As a small, independent publisher, the man would probably receive less than this from Spotify and Apple, but don't forget that the original sum earned was thought to be double the figure he was ultimately charged on.

While the defence team are looking to appeal the decision in the Danish high court, the judge issued a sentence of 18 months (with three of that involving incarceration), two million Kroner confiscated from the man and his company, and a personal fine of 200,000 Kroner ($29k/$23k).

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I must admit to being unaware that this kind of thing was potentially so lucrative. Online e-book stores such as Amazon are replete with AI-generated junk but they don't exactly sell in the millions. But the fact that this chap managed to stay under radar for so long and rake in so much money could be the tip of a very large copyright iceberg.

If the appeal fails and the conviction is upheld, then I should imagine courts in other countries will begin to see more cases coming forward. It'll be interesting to see how all this pans out over the coming months.