Hacker who made £130,000 stealing Ed Sheeran songs jailed

Adrian Kwiatkowski - City of London Police/PA
Adrian Kwiatkowski - City of London Police/PA

A hacker has been jailed for stealing unreleased music from artists including Ed Sheeran and Kanye West, before selling them for more than £130,000.

Adrian Kwiatkowski, 22, illegally accessed cloud-based accounts owned by dozens of top artists, also including Frank Ocean and Post Malone.

He would then make electronic copies of unfinished songs, such as Give Me That and Butterfly by Sheeran, with the intention of selling them online.

Kwiatkowski was snared after representatives of Ocean, an American rapper and songwriter, contacted the New York District Attorney’s Office.

They had noticed that the Dropbox account of Ocean’s producer had been hacked and the content offered for sale by someone known online as "Spirdark".

An email address used to set up Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account was then linked to Kwiatkowski, and the IP address of the device used to hack one of the accounts was traced to his home address in Ipswich, Suffolk.

Ed Sheeran - Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Ed Sheeran - Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

After further investigation, Kwiatkowski was arrested. Seven devices were seized from his home, including a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists.

A document saved on the hard drive summarised the method he had used to obtain them. Bitcoin, then worth £64,000, was also seized.

A review of Kwiatkowski’s bank account showed that he had deposited a total of £67,275 from February 2018 to September 2019, £61,855 of which was from his cryptocurrency accounts.

During his police interview, Kwiatkowski admitted he had hacked the musicians and sold their songs online. He also confirmed that he used the alias Spirdark.

The investigation by City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), supported by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), revealed that he made £131,000, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty at Ipswich Magistrates' Court in August to 14 copyright offences, three counts of computer misuse and three offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on Friday.

Stuart Camp, Sheeran’s manager, said that it was difficult to estimate the exact value of the money lost by his client as a result of Kwiatowski’s scam, but the cost of abandoning a track could run into six figures.

He said the hacking had caused Sheeran distress due to his personal life being violated, as well his music being hacked.

'Cybercrime knows no borders'

Speaking after sentencing, Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt, of PIPCU, said: "Kwiatkowski was a highly skilled individual who unfortunately saw potential in using his abilities unlawfully.

"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."

He added: "This investigation is an excellent example of the way PIPCU and its partner agencies work across international borders to identify those involved in criminal activity.

"Kwiatkowski will now face the consequences of his actions, and I hope this result will also make his customers refrain from purchasing illegal content again."

Alvin L Bragg Jr, Manhattan District Attorney, said: "Cybercrime knows no borders, and this individual executed a complex scheme to steal unreleased music in order to line his own pockets.

"New York and London are cultural capitals of the world, and through our enduring partnership with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and law enforcement organisations around the world, we have sent a clear message that we have the ability and tools to stop this type of criminal activity and protect victims."