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Man sentenced for over £500,000 of karaoke copyright offences

  • Steve Mather, 63, of Beaufort Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, has been sentenced to eight months suspended at Manchester Crown Court
  • He pleaded guilty to copyright offences for illegally creating and distributing karaoke tracks online without permission
  • Digitop have estimated their loss to be £485,000, while Sunfly Karaoke Ltd’s loss is projected to be £29,593.50

Steve Mather, 63, of Beaufort Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, was sentenced to eight months, suspended for 2 years at Manchester Crown Court on 28 June 2018 after pleading guilty to copyright offences for illegally creating and distributing karaoke tracks online without permission.

In 2015, the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) received a referral from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) when one of their members, Digitop Ltd, became aware of online accounts called KaraokeRG and Karaokekid. These accounts were making torrented karaoke tracks available to the public without permission from the rights holders, Digitop and Sunfly Karaoke Ltd.

Two websites were discovered which appeared to be linked to the Karaokekid account, one of which was connected to a PayPal account for donations.

In February 2015, BPI made evidential downloads of eight albums, four belonging to Digitop and four belonging to Sunfly Karaoke Ltd. Digitop confirmed that the files were exclusively licensed to their trading name, ‘Mr Entertainer’ and contained copyrighted recordings and their trademarks. Sunfly Karaoke confirmed that the CDs contained a total of 141 tracks which are all owned and licensed by them. Sunfly also confirmed the KaraokeRG is not authorised to reproduce, create, replicate, copy, distribute, lend or hire karaoke music files which are owned by them.

In December 2015, PIPCU officers conducted a search warrant at Mather’s house and a number of items were seized, including a laptop. Emails were found on the laptop that linked to the website used by Mather. Between May 2015 and November 2015, Mather received £172.73 via the Paypal account linked to KaraokeKid.

Mather was arrested and interviewed on 15 December 2015 at Bury Police Station by PIPCU officers, and subsequently charged.

Digitop have estimated their loss to be £485,000, based on 44,000 illegal downloads over three years, while the revenue lost by Sunfly Karaoke Ltd from the copying and distributing of the four albums concerned is projected to be £29,593.50.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector, Nick Court of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said: “By making these tracks available to the public, this not only impacts upon the businesses involved, but also upon those who work for them by putting jobs at risk and negatively impacting upon the progress of the company.

“Mather has caused these companies to suffer significant financial losses.

 “We take these crimes and the integrity of the UK creative industry very seriously. We put every effort into protecting their work.”

Kiaron Whitehead, BPI General Counsel said: “People love karaoke, but the group behind ‘KaraokeRG’ spoil the fun and cause serious harm to legitimate hard-working karaoke music companies.

“KaraokeRG’s ringleader Steven Mather liked to use the nickname ‘KaraokeKid’.  But, as he has learnt, the internet is not the Wild West. The BPI is pleased to have supported the City of London Police in their investigation into this case – which serves as a further clear warning and deterrent to music pirates that they will not go undetected and unpunished.”

Matt Cope, Deputy Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office said: "Protecting our music industry is vital to help grow our economy, so I am pleased to hear that through partnership working the British Phonographic Industry and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit have brought this man to justice.

The UK has one of the best IP enforcement regimes in the world and I hope this acts as a warning that action can and will be taken."


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