As the vinyl resurgence continues in nations around the globe, a UK court has officially handed down a major criminal sentence to a Dorset man who raked in about $1.5 million by selling counterfeit LPs.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which is said to have coordinated with Dorset Trading Standards to target the illicit operation, just recently detailed the sentence issued to one Richard Hutter. Per the trade organization’s summary of the years-long crackdown, 55-year-old Hutter had previously pleaded guilty to 13 trademark and copyright offenses as well as one count of money laundering.
Also according to the BPI – which in March disclosed that domestic vinyl sales had grown 3.1% in 2022 to hit £119.5 million (currently $148.40 million) – the underlying investigation was set in motion when a fed-up fan complained after realizing that he or she had bought one of the fake products.
Available to purchase via Ebay, Hutter’s own website, and “an American website,” the vinyl records in question were confirmed to be inauthentic following subsequent “test” purchases and a review conducted by BPI reps, the London-headquartered entity relayed.
Needless to say, given today’s sentence, this confirmation set the stage for a search of the then-suspect’s home, from which authorities are said to have seized “a number of counterfeit records and sleeves” way back in July of 2018.
All told, the presiding recorder determined that Hutter had “benefitted by” approximately £1.2 million ($1.49 million) from the seemingly lengthy scheme, with £373,589 ($463,924) of the sum still in his possession at the time of sentencing. The vinyl records bootlegger was ordered to forfeit the remaining cash within three months post-sentence or face three years behind bars, the BPI emphasized.
Additionally, sentencing solely for the money-laundering charge, the recorder slapped Hutter with a four-month prison term suspended for two years, besides 250 hours of “unpaid work” that must be completed within one year as well as three months of an (electronically monitored) 8 PM to 7 AM curfew, the BPI indicated.
In a statement about the “serious crime” and the prevalence of counterfeit vinyl records in the UK, Paola Monaldi, head of the BPI’s content protection unit, specified that millions of fake products have been uncovered during the last three years alone.
“This is a serious crime that denies artists the rewards for their creativity, exploits fans, and impacts legitimate retail and the record labels that invest in music – but worse, it can feed into other forms of criminality that can impact us all,” Monaldi said in part.
“Over the last three years the BPI has delisted over 100,000 fake items from marketplace platforms and seized over 3 million counterfeit units across the UK – which underlines the scale of the problem,” continued the higher-up.
Outside the UK, 2022 data shows that the sales figures behind vinyl records are increasing in the US, Italy, Germany, Japan, and globally. Owing to this considerable demand, however, the format has long grappled with production woes that could potentially encourage piracy – prompting emerging manufacturers to arrive on the scene and compelling high-profile acts to invest in pressing plants.