Even Cogill Gets The Blues

The arrest of a music blogger for streaming leaked tracks from the upcoming Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy has quickly elevated the alleged leaker to cult hero status on one side of the copyright issue, while attaching a face to music piracy issues for the side occupied by labels and recording artists.

Kevin Cogill isn’t technically a leaker in the Great GNR Caper. The anonymous source Cogill cites for the unreleased tracks is the actual leaker. Cogill, on the other hand, is the enabler.

The leaked Guns N’ Roses tracks were kind of a holy grail for fans who waited 10 long years for Axl Rose to finally sign off on the album. In fact, a joke that made the rounds during the last few years stated that by the time Geffen released Chinese Democracy, China would already have democracy.

Cogill stirred up quite a fuss when he posted the tracks the source leaked to him on his blog, Antiquiet. Although he removed the tracks after lawyers representing Guns N’ Roses complained, the takedown wasn’t the end of Cogill’s 15 minutes of fame. FBI agents arrested Cogill at his Culver City, Calif., apartment August 27. Charged with music piracy, Cogill faces up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Cogill’s arrest is the latest example that the recording industry is not taking the leaking and distributing of unreleased tracks lightly. The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 provides stiff penalties for leaking unreleased music.

But Cogill’s arrest is also an example of the recording industry’s split personality when it comes to leaking tracks. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that Buckcherry might have intentionally leaked tracks from its upcoming album Black Butterfly to drum up publicity. And last year Bruce Springsteen’s Magic leaked to the public weeks before its official release but just in time for fans to learn the lyrics before Springsteen & The E Street Band launched the first leg of a worldwide tour promoting the album. The timing of the leak left some people wondering if it was just a coincidence or part of the overall marketing plan.

But so far, the Guns N’ Roses leak caper doesn’t seem to be somebody’s idea of fan-2-fan viral marketing.

Instead, the tale of the leak goes back to June when Cogill, while writing on Antiquiet, noted that he had been waiting for the new GNR album “half his life.”

“The more you dick around with the details, the more likely the album is to leak on the Internet, spoiling whatever big plans you’re cooking up anyway,” wrote Cogill in early June.

Then came June 18, the day Cogill, who once worked for Universal Music, says he received the nine unreleased tracks from an unnamed source. Cogill then posted streams of the tracks on his blog, but did not make them available for download.

A $10,000 bond sprang Cogill from the local pokey, and on September 2 he posted a message on his blog asking for help with his legal defense.

“The United States Attorney’s Office has almost unlimited resources to prosecute,” Cogill wrote. “The FBI has nearly unlimited resources to investigate. And while by ‘resources’ I mean taxpayer dollars of course, in this case they also have the added resource of the band’s lawyers, on which they have already relied.”

A $10,000 bond plus the possibility of prison time and up to $250,000 in fines may seem like a lot for posting nine unreleased tracks. But copyright penalties aren’t designed only to punish infringers, but to prevent people from illicitly distributing copyrighted works. Unlike a stolen physical object like an automobile or a painting, a copyright crime cannot be undone with the intellectual property returned to its lawful owner.

Instead, like the genie in that oft-referred to bottle, once the crime has been committed the situation cannot be reversed and the content owners often have no recourse than to pursue the infringers to the full extent of the law. Unfortunately for Kevin Cogill, the intellectual property he coveted belonged to Axl Rose, Geffen and Universal, three entities hardly known for letting bygones be bygones.

Furthermore, when the FBI knocked on his door, Cogill freely admitted to the agents that he posted the streams on his blog. At this time, Cogill has yet to give up the leaker who gave him the tracks, but prison time and six-figure fines have a habit of changing one’s mind.

But things could be worse for Cogill. After all, Slash could still be in the band. From what the former Guns N’ Roses guitarist told the Los Angeles Times, three years in prison and a hefty fine may not be punishment enough for posting the tracks.

“I hope he rots in jail,” Slash told the Times. “It’s going to affect the sales of the record, and it’s not fair. The Internet is what it is, and you have to deal with it accordingly, but I think if someone goes and steals something, it’s theft.”


Bands Sign On For ‘Guitar Hero World Tour’

The video game that rocks, “Guitar Hero World Tour,” will feature re-records of old songs from Sex Pistols, Motorhead and The MC5’s Wayne Kramer as well as a new Smashing Pumpkins song.

Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins will release new single “G.L.O.W.” exclusively through Activision’s latest entry in the “Guitar Hero” series. It’s the first time any band has recorded a new single specifically for the gaming franchise.

The track will be bundled in a three-song download with two other Pumpkins tunes – “1979” and “The Everlasting Gaze.”

But the band’s participation doesn’t stop with a new song. Top Pumpkin Corgan will also appear as a character in the game. Players will be able to watch a digitized Corgan play and sing “Today,” or they can just shunt Billy aside and play the song themselves. After all, it is a game.

However, Smashing Pumpkins isn’t the only band of note recording music for “Guitar Hero World Tour.” The MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Motorhead and Sex Pistols have re-recorded their old songs for the game.

For Kramer, the obvious choice was the MC5 classic “Kick Out The Jams,” which he re-recorded with assistance from Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. Original “Kick Out The Jams” producer Bruce Botnick also helmed the re-record, which features the original 1968 vocal performance of MC5 singer Rob Tyner.

Other re-records on the new game include a recreation of the classic ’70s punk tune “Pretty Vacant” by the Sex Pistols, and Motorhead redoing the title track of its 1979 album, Overkill.

“We set out to deliver a soundtrack for Guitar Hero that envelopes as many genres, styles and artists as possible without limiting scope,” said Activision Blizzard VP of Music Affairs Tim Riley. “When highly respected artists such as MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Motorhead and The Sex Pistols are willing to go back in the recording studio and to re-record their music exclusively for the game, the fans win by getting a unique experience of old yet new legendary sounds.”

“Guitar Hero World Tour” is expected to hit store shelves during the last week of October.