A MAN from Kidderminster has been jailed for his role in making and selling tens of thousands of niche counterfeit vinyl records.

Stephen Russell, 65, of Puxton Drive, Kidderminster, was part of a group which distributed unlicensed recordings of 1960s northern soul artists.

On Friday (November 30), a court heard how 55,000 unlicensed records were seized by police following an investigation by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents record companies in the UK like Warner Music, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group.

Unofficial copies of original recordings included Marvin Gaye's This Love Starved Heart Of Mine, Bettye Swann's Kiss My Love Goodbye, Major Lance's Investigate and Art Freeman's Slippin Around With You.

The BPI stumbled upon the operation after test-purchasing vinyl records sold online, which were found to have defects like misspellings, blurred typefaces, and a large quantity with the words 'not for sale', 'promotional copy', and 'DJ copy' written on them.

Others had different artists on alternative sides of the recordings, sharp edges, and covers had their centre punches over parts of track titles.

Prosecutor Alex Greenwood said Russell was involved with the manufacture and sale of the recordings alongside Christopher Price, 68, of Bakehouse Mews, Broughton.

The court also heard how Robert Pye, 63, from Burrell Road, Ipswich, and Alan Godfrey, 61, from Coity Road, Bridgend, were involved in the commercial sale between November 2013 and October 2016.

Mr Greenwood told Newport Crown Court: "All defendants were engaged in the large scale commercial sale of counterfeit goods infringing both trademark and copyright.

"In many instances identical copies of recordings were found at the addresses of each of the defendants, indicative that they were supplying each other.

"All defendants' PayPal records reflected thousands of sales of similarly described recordings over many years."

Russell, Godfery and Pye pleaded guilty to six counts of unauthorised use of a trade mark, while Price pleaded guilty to two counts of unauthorised making of a copyright work, and three counts of unauthorised use of a trade mark.

Judge Richard Williams said no members of the public had complained about purchasing the records, but suggested they would have "at least expected" them to be unlicensed presses due to their unavailability in vinyl format from their respective record labels.

Judge Williams said: "The accused made a market for what there was no legitimate source."

He said the amount of money the men owed the record companies in royalties had not been calculated but "is likely to be small".

Russell was jailed for eight months, and Pye for 10 months, while Godfrey was handed a suspended sentence of nine months and Price a suspended sentence of eight months.

A proceeds of crime hearing will take place next year.