James Marks and James McCormick breached the UK's Computer Misuse Act when they hacked into Sony Music's servers and stole unreleased music recorded by Michael Jackson.
Marks, 27, hacked into Sony's servers from his home computer in Daventry, whilst McCormick, 26, hacked into the company's systems from his home in Blackpool. The men pled guilty to "two counts of unauthorised access to computer material", according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Leicester Crown Court sentenced the men to six months imprisonment, suspended for one year, and ordered them to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work in the community, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said.
Under the Computer Misuse Act it is an offence for a person to knowingly cause "a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer, or to enable any such access to be secured" without authorisation.
Gregor McGill, head of organised crime at the CPS, described Marks and McCormick as "huge enthusiasts of Michael Jackson" and said the men had actively "targeted Sony Music which has the exclusive license to the late musician’s catalogue".
"At the time of his death, there existed recorded but unreleased Michael Jackson music which aroused the attention of Marks and McCormick," McGill said in a CPS blog. "It was the prosecution’s case that these men were fully aware that the files they obtained on their computers were subject to copyright and that they took steps to sell on and to share the music with a wider audience in internet forums."
“In simple terms, these men broke into a computer system and took music files that were not theirs to take. That was criminal activity," McGill added.
SOCA launched an investigation into the activity of the men after Sony Music reported the security breach. The body said the men downloaded approximately 7,900 files stored within the recording label's systems, including completed tracks, component parts of music compositions, artwork and videos.
"These men stole thousands of copyrighted files belonging to Sony Music," Mick Jamieson of SOCA said in a statement. "Our remit is to protect businesses as well the public, and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement and industry partners to tackle online criminality."