Adrian Kwiatkowski exchanged the music by Sheeran and Lil Uzi Vert for cryptocurrency on the dark web after hacking into their cloud-based accounts, the Associated Press reported.
The 23-year-old, from Ipswich, a town in eastern England, admitted to 19 charges, including possessing criminal property and 14 copyright offenses.
“Kwiatkowski had complete disregard for the musicians’ creativity and hard work producing original songs and the subsequent loss of earnings,” Joanne Jakymec of the Crown Prosecution Service told AP. “He selfishly stole their music to make money for himself.”
In 2019, a complaint by Frank Ocean’s representatives was made to the New York District Attorney’s office, stating someone was accessing and downloading unreleased music from the Dropbox account owned by Ocean’s producer, the Ipswich Star reports.
After the management of several other musicians reported that an individual online known as “Spirdark” had gained access to their clients’ accounts, City of London Police worked with U.S. authorities to investigate the case. The email address tied to Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account was linked to Kwiatkowski and the IP address of the device used to hack one of the artists was traced to his home address.
In Sept. 2019, Kwiatkowski was arrested by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit; one of Kwiatkowski’s confiscated hard drives contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists, Sky News reported.
Three years after the initial arrest, Steven Dyble, a lawyer for Kwiatowski, said elements of the way his client committed the offenses were “utterly naive” and told the local paper that, “It was a bit like committing a bank robbery in broad daylight using your own car which was registered in your own name.”
“Not only did he cause several artists and their production companies significant financial harm, he deprived them of the ability to release their own work,” said Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt.