Kevin Cogill, a blogger on Antiquiet, a site that provides "uncensored music reviews and interviews," was arrested yesterday at his home near Los Angeles on suspicion of violating federal copyright law after he allegedly posted nine songs from the unreleased -- and highly-anticipated -- Guns N' Roses album "Chinese Democracy."
Here is how his fellow Antiquiet bloggers described the situation facing Cogill, who posts under the name Skwerl:
Axl Rose didn’t call the FBI, but today it became more than obvious that someone really was serious about that threat. Johnny and I sat on a pew in the U.S. District Court building in Downtown L.A. as Skwerl sat behind glass, in handcuffs, and still in his jammies since the FBI arrested him at 6:59 this morning. . . .
The U.S.A. requested bail be set at $50,000. Skwerl’s court-appointed attorney thankfully called B.S. on that one and recommended his bail be $5,000 and that this case is the kind of case where the defendant should have been summoned to appear instead of being accosted by five F.B.I. agents at his home in a quiet neighborhood.
Interestingly, the Judge chimed in to add that he had actually recommended that it be a summons case and wasn’t sure why it went down as it did. He also dismissed the idea presented by the U.S.A. that squirrels be forbidden to use the internet. In the end, the Judge ruled that his bail be in the form of a signature bond at $10,000.
Cogill allegedly posted the tracks back on June 18, noting at the time that "I always said that the more that Axl and Geffen jerked around trying to figure out how to release this finally finished album that we’ve all been waiting over 13 years for, the greater the chances would be that it would slip out of a pressing plant or office somewhere and wind up in the hands of some asshole with a blog. So… Hey, I told you so."
According to Rolling Stone, Cogill said he acquired the tracks from “an anonymous online source,” which he then allegedly made available through a streaming player on the blog. Within hours, however, the tracks were taken down, but the cat was already out of the bag, so to speak. A nine-song zip file containing the tracks is widely available via file-sharing sites.
The FBI took an interest in the case shortly after the songs appeared on Cogill's blog, sending two FBI agents to visit him at work and at home, Rolling Stone has reported. Evidently feeling the pressure, Cogill posted a plea for legal help earlier this week, writing that, "more and more each day, it looks like I may be indicted."
While I haven't seen the formal charges yet, it is likely that Cogill has been charged under the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which makes the willful infringement of unpublished copyrighted material a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Cogill is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing on September 17th.
Update: Cogill has in fact been charged under 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(C), which implements the copyright amendments included in the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005. I've been able to locate the criminal complaint filed against him, and it charges that he "knowingly and willfully distributed a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, namely nine previously unreleased songs by the band Guns n' Roses, by making the songs available on a computer network accessible to members of the public."
(You can follow further developments in the case by going to our legal threats database entry, United States v. Cogill.)