back to article UK Man cops to £500,000 iTunes royalty scam

A UK man has admitted involvement in crime ring that generated £500,000 in royalties by using stolen credit cards to buy his own songs on iTunes and Amazon, according to published reports. Wolverhampton-based Lamar Johnson, 19, was the youngest member of a group accused of posting the songs and then downloading them using the …


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  1. thecakeis(not)alie

    Remember kids:

    Punishment should fit the crime. The punishment for crimes as heinous as downloading a TV episode you missed, or an album of music so you can "try before you buy" is enormous. Punitive to the point of ridiculous.

    Here's someone from the "other side" of that looking glass screwing regular folks by stealing credit card information. Let's all watch and see how harsh his punishment is. If you get thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars worth of punishment /per track/ for downloading songs, surely a copyright owner who is /actually stealing/ (as opposed to merely infringing copyright by “making available”) will get nailed to the wall!

    I demand tens of thousands of dollars worth of punitive damages per credit card stolen, on top of paying back the monies owed! We all know however that won’t happen. Stealing from the “walking wallets” of the world is /nowhere near/ the heinous crime of infringing upon the rights of copyright holders!

    The hell of it is…this is one copyright holder I respect! At least he’s honest about how he views those consume the content he owns…

  2. Turtle

    Something's wrong here...

    6000 downloads producing 500,000 pounds equals 83.3 pounds per download.

    Where can *I* get that kind of royalty rate?

    1. Andy Jones

      Not quite right

      I expect that they didn't download one song 6000 times, but downloaded multiple songs at least 6000 times EACH!

  3. David Hicks


    For 6,000 downloads?

    83 quid a pop? Good lord.....

    1. Knowledge
      Thumb Up

      83 quid a pop?

      Not iTunes then!

      Tell me where - i'm putting my songs there right now!

  4. Anomalous Cowturd

    Something doesn't add up... Or divide...

    £500,000 / 6,000 songs = £83.33 per song. WTF??

    That's even more expensive than the iTunes store.

  5. banjomike

    downloaded songs 6,000 times ?

    That looks like £83 royalties per download. Impressive. Or wrong.

    1. Matt 141

      How many tracks per purchase?

      It says "6,000 times". Each "time" could be a single credit card transaction purchasing several songs / albums. I think it still sounds out by an order of magnitude or so though.

  6. LuMan

    The Maths - Nope, not £83.33 per song

    Reading the associated articles it appears that they uploaded 20 songs and downloaded them all enough times to spend £469,000 (this isn't the actual royalty amount). This is about £4 per song. Still expensive, though, when most songs are about 70p!!!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember guys

    This is the ever so technically minded courts. Chances are a "download" was a little downloading session, ie, 10 or so albums.

  8. Clyde

    who got the real money

    What's the chances that the majority of the payments from the credit cards never got taken back off Amazon and iTunes ?

    I would assume pretty good chances.

    So who really profited from this then ?

  9. Steve 13

    @thecake - It's a UK Case, not US

    The UK doesn't really do punitive damages, there haven't been any copyright infringers in the UK fined hundreds of thousands of pounds.

  10. lawndart

    If we are going to impose insanely high damage charges...

    Why not just set the fine at the national debt?

  11. salerio

    It doesn't say 6000 songs

    It says 6000 times. He could have spent 4 or 5 hours at a time downloading all sorts of stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Long days

      6000 times over 18 months. That's more than 10 "sessions" per day. At 4 or 5 hours each, that'd be 50 hours a day.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    In case anyone missed it there...

    ...£83 per song ;-)

  13. Alan 6


    They'd have had to download the track several million times to generate those kinds of royalties.

    Maybe we're on to something here - I know of no-one who actually likes Lady Gaga, perhaps she has a team of slaves downloading her shite on stolen cards...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      not so fast

      I have downloaded a few lady gaga tracks, it's better than most of the stuff the music industry churns out these days, although i'll admit that's not really a compliment

      there were no royalties from my downloads, however free downloads != lost sales, i'll take it for free but i certainly wouldn't have paid for it...

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Can the artist set the price in iTunes?

    If so, I'm shocked that no-one noticed this sort of markup... If not, how many downloads is £500,000 at an "average" price? About half a million?

    And if he's getting £83 per song, what was charged to the cards (i.e. the £83 royalty + Apple's fees +anything else)? And how did they think they'd get away with it?

    Or could they have downloaded the same song 6000 times with each card and repeated for other songs?

  15. Velv

    Epic Fail

    OK, there are many many ways to launder money, but this must surely be one of the least profitable.

    Typical royalties run at around 4% of the selling price. Apple in it's deal with the labels got this down to a typical 2%. So leaving aside the maths errors aleady pointed out, a £500,000 scam would generate £10,000 to £20,000 in Royalties. Not much for the effort and risk.

    1. Ian Yates


      If they did have the credit card details (and not just iTunes logins), I can think of many better ways to launder their money to my accounts.

      Hang on, there's someone at the door.

    2. Tim #3


      And surely this was inevitably traceable too, even Inspector Lestrade would have spotted the connection with all the stolen cards.

      Talking of dumb criminals, my mum worked at a prison for a while, and was always amused by how many prisoner's visitors would turn up there in a stolen car, some days a few would be caught. Not the sharpest lot ....

  16. M.A

    Hang him high

    I hope he get £500,000 per song like the fileshaeretrs would better still hang him.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    X Factor.

    Surely this is what Simon Cowell does but in a more roundabout way?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    follow the evidence

    If you trace back throuhg the BBC link to the report of when they were charged then you'll find that it was £469,000 worth of songs that they downloaded - still an impressively expensive £78 per song.

    Given that this would, surely, be a fairly simple scam to work out you might assume that those involved are not among the criminal masterminds of the world so to maximize their potential profit I expect they priced the bogus songs at the maximum permitted by the system - while no-one would probably ever buy a song for £80 that's not the point as they weren't looking for real sales.

    Reminds me of the old premium rate telephone scams where someone would set up a high cost premium rate line then stick an autodialer on a normal line to continually call it - premium rate provider would then hand over a cheque after a month of so but when phone provider sent huge bill for the autodialer line a couple of months later no-one would be around to pay it.

  19. The Envoy

    But ... 500 000 i royalty

    ... must surely mean at least 35 million downloads at 70p a track using Velv's 2 percent royalty rate?

  20. Faster Better Greener

    £83 royalties per 99p song

    A man was today convicted of of defrauding millions of people in a music-related scam. The complex scheme involved a 'Mr Big', who coerced unemployed people with no musical abilities to record cover versions of popular hits and to make videos of their - generally inept - performances.

    The plot then involved hosting the videos on a broadcast platform and, through a relentless campaign of terror, forcing millions of members of the public to make premium rate phone calls. Callers to the numbers were given the impression that they were somehow 'choosing' which recording would 'win' a purported 'competition'. At no point did the victims actually receive any goods in return for their money - all rights in the recorded music always remained with the criminal mastermind. If members of the public actually wanted to download the 'music' they had to pay again to obtain the .mp3 file.

    Having parted millions of people from their cash, the criminal mastermind would then take his enslaved musical minions on freakshow tours of provincial towns, where further thousands of innocent marks were fleeced, under the impression that they were paying to see a concert. They were in fact handing over their hard earned cash only to be subjected to various forms auditory torture, including practices outlawed under the Geneva Convention.

    Pleading "impressively guilty, don't you think" to all charges, Cowell, 51 of Kesington, admitted all the offences. He avoided prison by striking a plea bargain with prosecutors, under which he would be allowed to continue his operations in the UK on condition that he extended his scheme to certain overseas territories. It is believed that this move was backed by a secretive MI6 PsyOps unit, seeking to destabilise foreign powers.

    1. martin burns


      You think that's a scam: do you not remember Dial-a-Disc?

      Dial 16 and listen to a song (of the GPO's choosing) once at quite frighteningly low fidelity. At what was compared to today, ruinously expensive rates

  21. Matt Hawkins


    Completely agree with "thecakeis(not)alie"

    Standback and watch this criminal get a tiny punishment on a completely different scale to someone who downloaded a few songs from eDonkey. If they spent £500K of stolen money the fine should be a minimum of £500K before they even think about a punishment. Thats the same as downloading a few crap songs according to the RIAA.

    But then punishments rarely fit the crime. The people with the money decide.

    These days downloading a few songs is more of a crime than actually robbing somene in the street at knife point.

    Love the recent news that the UK music industry lost £1 billion due to downloads. Because we all know a download equates to a lost sale. Numpties.

    1. Sampler


      Now there's one I haven't heard of in a few years!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    US Law is the Law!

    "It's a UK Case, not US"

    Shame our Government doesn't believe this. Its a UK case not a US case until we get told otherwise by the US.

    Remember the whole planet must bow to US law !!

  23. John I'm only dancing

    The post is required, and must contain letters.

    With downloads in the 1,000s, how come this talentless one hasn't had a few numbers one in the UK?

    Then again, anyone with half a brain would know the top 40 is a load of number two's.

  24. Ian 55

    If you had lots of stolen credit cards, what would you buy?

    Given how much (little) iTunes pays out to the people who actually make music, this is doubly dumb of them.

    1. nation of stupid

      Be your own record comapny

      That's where most of the money paid to iTunes ends up. What the record company pays to the artist and the songwriter is down to their record contract, nothing to do with Apple.

      Although I agree it's a pretty dumb scam when the downloaded tunes are traceable, while also having any profits going to a traceable account at the other end. It's like paying for a taxi ride home with a stolen card.

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