Gigs & Bytes: Even Cogill Gets The Blues
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. Furthermore, 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 belongs 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 the threat of prison time and six-figure fines has 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.”