Quote of the Day - There's no reason to throw out copyrights just because you're on the Internet, ... Deal with it.
The FBI arrested a Los Angeles blogger for posting nine songs from Guns ‘n Roses upcoming and long-delayed album, Chinese Democracy, on his blog, Antiquet. The album has been ten years in the making and still has an undetermined release. The blogger, Kevin Cogill, a.k.a Skwerl (pronounced "squirrel"), appeared handcuffed and in his pajamas behind a glassed-in panel at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Wednesday to answer charges of criminal copyright infringement.
Initially jailed, he is now free on a $10,000 signature bond and restricted to the confines of the Central District. Surprisingly, his access to the internet was not restricted, presumably because he voluntarily complied with the law in taking down the songs posted earlier.
The Complaint in U.S. v. Cogill has not yet been posted on the Court's website.
Skwerl's blog Antiquet reviews music, and according to the site, the FBI had been discussing the song postings with him for some time. He readily admits he posted the nine songs, which were later taken down.
He is now seeking a copyright criminal defense lawyer, if there is such a thing.
In addition to this law firm, I can think of only three or four other local firms that have copyright and criminal law experience, so it may be quite unlikely he'll find one willing to represent him. He was represented by public defender Anthony Eaglin at the hearing, and Skwerl is scheduled to appear next on September 17 at 4:30 p.m. and be arraigned on September 22 at 8:30 a.m. at 255 East Temple Street, Third Floor, in Los Angeles before a criminal duty judge.
Even if he got a lawyer, with the admission he posted on his blog, the best that's going to happen to him is a plea bargain. Otherwise, it's jail time and a fine. The penalties for criminal infringement are determined by its extent: if the infringer has made in any 180-day period ten or more copies of one or more copyrighted works with a total retail value of $2,500, the crime is a felony entailing up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2319(a), 3571(b). Jail time can be increased to ten years for repeat offenders. It's unclear whether Skwerl previously posted other copyrighted songs but he apparently hasn't previously been convicted, so his exposure appears to be five years of jail time at most.
Infringement is a crime where it is done "willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain." 17 U.S.C. § 506(a). Recent fines levied in criminal copyright infringement cases have been as much as $250,000.
"Guns N' Roses representatives have been made aware of the arrest and are leaving the matter to the authorities," said Larry Solters, the band's spokesman. On the other hand, the RIAA is pleased: Kathy Loedler, the RIAA's director of investigations for the western region said this is "the beginning of an effort to be more aggressive. When we tell somebody to just take it down and there's no penalty, there's no arrest, there's no fine, and it's very easy for them to continue to do it."
Skwerl had previously received a cease-and-desist letter from GNR Axl Rose's lawyers, and in response took down the songs from his blog.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Missakian said the RIAA had alerted the Department of Justice to the case, and he planned to prosecute similar cases as they arose. "We take this type of crime very seriously," he said. Based on my knowledge, only one other criminal case of copyright infringement has been filed. GNR songs from the Chinese Democracy album have been leaked to the internet several times previously, but not prosecuted.
The music industry's reaction to copyright infringement is starting to look like the reaction we've seen from the movie industry for some time.