June 22, 2024

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Jay-Z’s music streaming service Tidal under criminal investigation in Norway over alleged fake streams 

A music-streaming service owned by American musician Jay-Z is under criminal investigation in Norway over allegations that albums by Beyoncé and Kanye West were fraudulently streamed several hundred million times.

Tidal has come under investigation by Økokrim, the Norwegian police’s economic crime unit. The investigation was confirmed in an interview with Økokrim’s chief public prosecutor Elisabeth Harbo-Lervik by the Dagens Næringsliv newspaper in Norway.

The newspaper claimed in May that it had been passed a copy of an internal Tidal database which contained information on which customers had streamed certain albums. The newspaper wrote that the database showed evidence of at least 320m fake streams being registered as legitimate customers listening to music.

Two albums were reportedly found to have misleading streaming data: Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo. Both musicians are part-owners of Tidal.

The investigation follows four criminal complaints against Tidal from the Norwegian copyright association Tono SA, the artist organisation Gramart, Fono and the Musicians’ Union in Norway.

Ms Harbo-Lervik said that Tidal has not been charged in the investigation. Four former employees of Tidal have reportedly been questioned as part of the investigation.

A spokesman for Tidal said on Monday that “TIDAL is not a suspect in the underlying investigation. We are communicating with Økokrim. We are aware that at least one person we suspected of theft has been questioned.”

Tidal has denied claims that any fake streams were carried out through its service. The company said that it has hired a cybersecurity business to investigate the possible theft of user data and any manipulation of streams, although no report has been released publicly from that investigation.

A spokesman for Økokrim confirmed the ongoing investigation on Monday but declined to comment further.

Jay-Z purchased Norwegian music streaming business Aspiro in 2015. The company started life in 1995 as a services company for early mobile telephone networks, but launched its own music streaming service in 2010.

Tidal was originally known as “WiMP” and was a niche competitor to more mainstream streaming services such as Spotify. But the business’ finances declined, leaving Jay-Z able to acquire it in 2015 for $56m (£43.6m).