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Streaming Fraud Leads to Prison Sentence for Danish Man After Using Bots to Earn Him Thousands of Dollars in Royalties

The silhouettes of two people in front of a bright green background with a Spotify logo
Source: Bildquelle/CCNell

A Danish man is sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of fraudulently profiting from royalties on hundreds of tracks on music streaming sites.

The court found the 53-year-old consultant guilty of data fraud and copyright infringement for using bots to listen to his music through fake profiles on popular music streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, generating about 2 million Danish kroner ($290,000).

The copyright infringement found that the consultant used edited versions of other musicians’ work and profited from it. Prosecutors accused the man of taking others’ work, changing their length and tempo, and publishing them as his.

This is the first time someone has been tried and convicted for fraudulent streaming in the country. Many musicians, artists, and composers hailed the historic verdicts as it further protects creators from bots.

“We are pleased that the court has affirmed that streaming fraud is deeply criminal and serious. It’s a historic verdict that sends a strong signal about the severity of stream manipulation challenges,” Maria Fredenslund, the chief executive of the Danish Rights Alliance, said (via The Guardian). “The case also shows that this type of fraud can be detected and that both rights holders and authorities take the issue seriously.” Fredenslund added that the case would help set an important precedent for the future, “especially with the development within artificial intelligence.”

Fredenslund claims that the man created software that played the music automatically, “So he didn’t really listen to the music. No one really listened to the music.” According to the Danish Rights Alliances, the man had 69 accounts with music streaming services.


Before his conviction, the man had used artificially generated streams, or bots, to make himself Demark’s 46th highest-earning composer between 2014 and 2017. “The man cheated his way to millions of listens, but also violated copyright by speeding up the tracks and releasing them. It’s a mockery to those who struggle to make music every day and earn peanuts,” Anna Lidell, chair of Autor, the largest Danish association for composers, songwriters, lyricists, and producers, said.

Originally, the court accused the man of making 4.38 million kroner from 689 pieces of music across Spotify, Apple Music, and YouSee Musik. However, the court announced that it did not have sufficient data to confirm how many artificially generated tracks the man played or how much royalties he generated.

This historic case reveals a glaring problem in the streaming industry. According to a study by France’s National Music Center, between 1 and 3 billion fake streams were available on popular music platforms in 2021. These streams take royalty payments away from real artists by polluting streaming platforms.

“This is an example of a problem that’s becoming a liability within the music industry,” says Rasmus Rex Pedersen, an associate professor in communication at Roskilde University in Denmark, who researches music streaming (via Wired). “The streaming services have had several years to develop tools to combat this type of fraud and apparently they haven’t been doing a very good job.”

Music streaming platforms are cracking down on fake music and services generating fraudulent streams. However, streaming manipulation still takes place and withholds royalties from musicians. While companies are trying to do their best to protect artists on their platforms, combating artificial streaming is looking like an uphill battle.


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