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Danish Man Sentenced to Prison Over Alleged Streaming Fraud Scheme — But an Appeal Is Already in Motion

music streaming fraud

Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo Credit: Lindsay Martin

Last month, a trial kicked off in Denmark over an alleged music streaming fraud operation. Now, having been found guilty of data fraud as well as copyright infringement, the responsible individual is facing three months behind bars.

Denmark’s National Special Crime Unit just recently published a formal release about the verdict and the sentence, which, according to Copenhagen’s Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), the defendant and his counsel have already appealed.

As we reported in late February, this 53-year-old defendant allegedly orchestrated a nearly 700-track music streaming fraud scheme between 2013 and 2016. (Initially, the alleged scam was said to have run into 2019.)

Registering himself as the creator and owner of the involved works – some of which were allegedly modified reuploads of proper artists’ releases, hence the infringement portion of the verdict – the defendant allegedly streamed the tracks many millions of times.

(Importantly, legal documents and the prosecution previously pointed to a roughly $635,000/DKK 4.38 million windfall from the alleged scam. But at trial the figure was placed at an estimated total of closer to $290,000/DKK 2 million, DR indicated.)

Consequently, the court has handed down an 18-month sentence – albeit with 15 months suspended. Besides ordering the alleged criminal to prison for the remaining three months, the presiding judge called for the confiscation of approximately $145,000 (DKK 1 million) from the individual and from his company, for $290,000 overall.

Lastly, regarding the penalties at hand, the defendant (who reportedly has professional experience in the industry) is also facing a $28,979/DKK 200,000 fine against his business.

The mentioned appeal has been submitted specifically to the High Court, though even before the trial began, the alleged scammer’s attorney made clear his belief that the seldom-seen case could ultimately reach Denmark’s Supreme Court.

Furthermore, that the case is unfolding in Denmark (with a language barrier to boot) renders it relatively difficult to pinpoint concrete details about the precise nature of the years-long scheme. However, the National Special Crime Unit release appears to suggest that the alleged criminal himself generated the streams via “71 active accounts.”

As noted, the seemingly labor-intensive effort allegedly raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of royalties before a third-party organization brought the situation to the attention of law enforcement. And that point raises questions about the fraud-detection policies in place (at least when the alleged artificial streams were recorded) at leading platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.

Bigger picture, the apparent presence of fake stream providers and/or scams in other well-established markets raises additional questions yet – including about whether plays from certain nations fly under the radar and draw comparatively little scrutiny.

The IFPI last week touted the takedown of several Canada-based fake stream services, and reports in 2023 claimed Spotify was being used as a money laundering tool by “criminal gangs” in Sweden.

Predictably, with “users of paid subscription accounts” having approached 700 million during 2023, according to the IFPI, those examples hardly paint a complete picture of questionable streams’ prevalence. Earlier in March, Legitary data showed that 16 percent of all music streams are “suspicious.”

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