BPI Successfully Shuts Down Counterfeit Vinyl Records Ring

Whether you make a few dollars or a thousand dollars on the side selling vinyl records, the BPI won’t tolerate any counterfeit operation.

For the past four years, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and local police in South Wales have collaborated on a major operation.

Several years ago, the BPI came across a counterfeit vinyl records ring in the country.

Four men – Christopher Price, Stephen Russell, Robert Pye, and Alan Godfrey – had formed part of an underground group.  For years, they’ve distributed unlicensed recordings of 1960s Northern Soul artists.  The men have since received a range of sentences after pleading guilty.

The counterfeit vinyl records reportedly included several notable defects.  These included obvious misspellings and blurred typefaces.  Consumers would also receive records featuring the following words – “Not For Sale,” “Promotional Copy,” and “DJ Copy.”  Others would have sharp edges and different artists on the alternative side of the recordings.

In total, police recovered 55,635 infringing 7” vinyl records, 26 10” vinyl records, and 907 12” vinyl records, as well as 4,678 CDs, 70 music DVDs, and 8 DVD MP3s.  The latter contained a total of 5,121 music tracks and 98 albums.

All four men had earned thousands in sales.  They would sell the counterfeit records on online marketplaces, including Amazon.  One suspect – Alan Godfrey – had an Amazon credit of £10,905 ($13,711).  He had £152,254 ($191,395) in his PayPal account at the time of his arrest.  During 2010 and 2016, his taxes show he didn’t report any earned income.

Interestingly enough, Godfrey, Pye, and Price had registered with the Performing Rights Society (PRS).  Only Price had applied for a license for nine artists’ works.  He paid PRS to manufacture five hundred copies of a single artist’s record.  These records hadn’t formed part of the counterfeit ring.

Russell, Pye, and Godfrey all pleaded guilty to six counts of unauthorized use of a registered trademark.  Price pleaded guilty to two counts of unauthorized making of a copyrighted work and three counts of unauthorized use of a trademark.

At the sentencing, Judge Richard Williams noted not a single consumer had come forward with a complaint.

In fact, most records weren’t available in vinyl format.

The accused made a market for what there was no legitimate source.

At the time of sentencing, Judge Williams said they owe record companies in royalties.  Yet, he added “[it’s] likely to be small.”

Pye will remain in jail for 10 months, Russell for 8, Godfrey for 9, and Price for 8 months.

Speaking about the arrest and subsequent sentencing, Kiaron Whitehead, BPI’s General Counsel, warned,

These important prison sentences send a very strong message to music pirates around the country.  Whether it’s an illegal music website or fake vinyl being sold on eBay and Amazon – The BPI and the Police are watching you and you will be prosecuted.

 


Featured image by Christina Xu (CC by 2.0).