Lady Gaga's WikiLeak

Ke$ha, Gaga

If the U.S. government can't keep its files from WikiLeak-ing, how can the music business--an industry infamous for bootlegs and pirated materials--ever hope to hold its music from the public until official release? Most albums and singles tend to leak weeks early thanks to any number of studio-goers--interns, engineers, producers, overzealous A&Rs.

But what happens when it's not an inside job?

Today it surfaced that a pair of hackers stole music files from superstars Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Ke$ha. According to reports, two students attached a trojan horse to an MP3 file they sent to the addresses of the artists, their managers, and record labels, and managed to hack into the artists' computers for about a year before being discovered by German investigators. Before being caught, the hackers stole a number of unpublished songs, and even several nude photos of Ke$ha.

One of the hackers known as DJ Stolen--a moniker that may not help much in court--said he was just a fan, and had no intention of blackmailing the celebrities. Nevertheless, DJ Stolen and his partner-in-crime could face big fines and up to five years in prison.

For stars such as Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, who rely on smash-hit singles to drive album and concert ticket sales, leaks like this are a stark reminder that Internet piracy is an ever-present threat, even with the success of legitimate services such as iTunes. Indeed, one digital music report by the IFPI estimates 40 billion tracks are still shared illegally each year--representing close to 95% of all music downloads.

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