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Two Brits in court over Michael Jackson back catalogue hack

Pair deny lifting unreleased tracks from Sony

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Two British men have denied hacking into Sony's systems and downloading 50,000 files covering Michael Jackson's entire back catalogue - including unreleased songs.

James Marks, 26, from Daventry in Northamptonshire, and James McCormick, 25, from Blackpool, appeared at Leicester Crown Court charged with computer hacking and copyright infringement offences. Both pleaded not guilty and were bailed to stand trial in January 2013.

Sony had bought the material from the Jackson estate for $250m (£164m) in 2010, months before data was allegedly siphoned from Sony's insecure network. A breach was discovered during an audit of Sony's gear following last year's Sony's PlayStation Network mega-hack.

"Everything Sony purchased from the Michael Jackson estate was compromised," claimed a source, talking to The Sunday Times. "It caused them to check their systems and they found the breach. There was a degree of sophistication. Sony identified the weakness and plugged the gap."

The songs allegedly lifted included an unreleased duet featuring Jackson and Queen front man Freddie Mercury, as well as unpressed versions of songs from studio recordings of Jackson's albums including Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad, according to music industry news sites. The court was told 50,000 files were allegedly swiped but this does not mean that the same number of songs were taken, contrary to earlier media reports.

Sony Music has yet to comment. Marks and McCormick were arrested by officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency in May before charges of violations against the Computer Misuse Act and Copyright, Designs and Patents Act were filed last September, a SOCA spokesman confirmed. ®

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