Phantom Artists Stole Their Songs. They Couldn’t Get Them Back.

The guys in Bad Dog, a folkie duo from Washington, D.C., weren’t hoping to get rich off the album they recorded this summer. David Post and Craig Blackwell have been devoted amateurs for decades, and they’re long past dreams of tours and limos. Mostly they wanted a CD to give away at a house party in December.

But not long after “The Jukebox of Regret” was finished in July and posted on SoundCloud, nearly every song on it somehow turned up on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and at least a dozen other streaming platforms. This might have counted as a pleasant surprise, except for a bizarre twist: Each song had a new title, attached to the name of a different artist.

This mysterious switcheroo might have gone unnoticed. But by happenstance, it was discovered when the guy who produced the album posted one of the songs on his studio’s Instagram account. To his astonishment, Instagram automatically tagged the song “Preston” by Bad Dog as a song called “Drunk the Wine” by Vinay Jonge — a “musician” with no previous songs and zero profile on the internet. He didn’t seem to exist.

The full extent of this heist soon became clear. “Pop Song” by Bad Dog had become “With Me Tonight” by someone named Kyro Schellen. “The Misfit” had become “Outlier” by Arend Grootveld. “Verona” had become “I Told You” by Ferdinand Eising. And so on. Same music, different track names and credited to different artists, none of whom had any other songs or any profile on the web.

It got weirder. Disc Makers, the CD production company hired by the band, was about to start pressing copies of the album and, as part of its routine due diligence, ran the metadata of the songs — their digital fingerprints, essentially — through a program designed to determine if they were originals. They were not, the program reported. Whoever had pirated the tracks had commandeered their digital fingerprints, too.

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