The City of London Police will spend the festive period wading through 1000s of karaoke classics after it “dismantled a gang” suspected of uploading tens of thousands of voiceless backing tracks from the likes of Beyonce, Gaga, Kanye and Kylie.
The arrests have sent shockwaves through the UK’s underground karaoke scene, with empty orchestra advocates insisting the “gang” were simple singing fans supplying tracks the music industry had chosen not to make available.
A police spokesman told The Register the force would not be raiding karaoke nights in search of unlicensed tracks, saying the investigation was purely focused on the uploading and distribution of music.
The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) said in a statement last week it had dismantled a “gang suspected of uploading and distributing tens of thousands of karaoke tracks online”.
One man was arrested in Barnstaple Devon, while two more were arrested in Bury, Lancashire, the force said in a press release. The men range between 50 and 60 years of age.
Thank you for the music
The statement said that the suspects, collectively trading under the label name of Karaoke RG, had “come to the attention of a company that legitimately manufactures and distributes music and products for the karaoke industry," which had noticed that "a large number of their tracks were being uploaded to the KickAss torrent website within days of them becoming available on their own online platforms".
John Hodge, BPI head of internet investigations, said: "The Release Groups which set themselves up to gain kudos from the early release of music repertoire need to understand that this behaviour is harmful to the industry that they claim to support. Actions like this send a strong message that this should not and will not be tolerated."
The Karaoke community appears to have reacted with horror to the arrests. On the Kickass Torrents website Jonny Bong asked: “How can you be arrested for giving something away free for private use, that's not available to buy publicly? The copyright owners lost nothing revenue wise, it's a joke. Thoughts are with the RG team.”
Metal Angel encouraged fellow karaoke fans to “seed these guys uploads, they've recently been arrested and I wouldn't be surprised if this account disappears soon.”
A spokesman for the City of London Police said this morning that no charges had yet been brought yet, and officers were continuing to examine evidence, which stretched to 100s of albums and 1000s of tracks, spanning a mixture of genres and artists.
He said that officers were investigating whether there had been any efforts to “monetise” the tracks allegedly uploaded and distributed.
He added that it was immaterial whether tracks had been monetised or not, as the alleged uploading and distributing would still have been costing the legitimate music companies money. ®