Michael Jackson’s catalogue of unreleased music has been hacked, according to a report in the U.K.’s The Sun.
Digital hackers have reportedly stolen the King of Pop’s entire back catalog, including unreleased tracks featuring Queen’s lead singer, Freddy Mercury, and hip-hop star, Will.I.Am. The crooks illegally downloaded over 50,000 digital files worth a reported $160 million.
In 2010, Sony Music paid $250 million to Jackson’s estate for his treasure trove of unheard material from studio sessions, when the pop icon recorded Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad. The deal allowed Sony to release 10 new Jackson albums in years to come.
The attack on Jackson’s music reportedly happened months ago, but Sony has remained quiet until now.
A source told The Sun, “Everything Sony purchased from the Michael Jackson estate was compromised.”
The breach in the security of Jackson’s files was discovered during a routine monitoring of social networking sites, Jackson fan sites, and hacking forums.
According to AOL’s music blog, the hackers could “slowly roll the songs out over a period of years, making obsessive fans shell out big bucks for each new CD.”
Not just Jackson’s work was compromised during the security scandal; unreleased music from Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, the Foo Fighters and Avril Lavigne was also hit.
Jackson was known by his colleagues and fans as a perfectionist, so it would be devastating to his musical legacy if raw versions of his unreleased tracks were leaked.
This is not the first time Sony has fallen victim to hacking. In April 2011, the company suffered an enormous security breach where the information of more 77 million Sony PlayStation users was exposed.
Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC