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 Before being caught, the hackers stole a number of unpublished songs, and even several nude photos of Ke$ha.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.