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Feds arrest man accused of posting unreleased Guns N' Roses songs*

Fans of Guns N' Roses

(Post updated at 2:45 p.m. with comment from the Electronic Frontier Foundation)

How he got his hands on the goods, we don't yet know. But today, police visited the home of a Culver City man and arrested him on suspicion of violating federal copyright law by posting nine previously unreleased Guns N' Roses songs on a website, Scott Glover reports in this L.A. Times story.

In June, the nine songs, from the band's upcoming album "Chinese Democracy," ended up on the website Antiquiet, which drew the attention of the feds. The site received so much traffic that it crashed.

Kevin Cogill, 27, told the FBI that he had posted the songs, according to an arrest affidavit. (In other stories, Cogill has been quoted as Kevin Skwerl, who, according to Rolling Stone, operates Antiquiet and used to work in the distribution office of Universal Music. The Recording Industry Assn. of America says it's the same person.) "Leak or no leak, I said that the only way the album would be a net success would be if the music was good enough to move units for years to come," he wrote at the time on his blog.

For musicians, TV networks or movie studios, there is probably nothing worse than seeing their work available illegally online before it has even been released. The movie industry has put elaborate ...

... and largely effective security measures in place to make sure that doesn't happen.

And in recent years, pre-release pirates have faced the threat of prison time, not just fines, thanks to a new federal copyright law. People may not have worried about risking three years in prison for posting some songs that each retail for 99 cents, but they may want to start worrying now.

Cogill, who is appearing today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is the first to be charged under the new federal statute in the West, said Kathy Leodler, director of investigations for the RIAA's Western region office in L.A. There have been others nationally, including two fans of singer Ryan Adams.

"The arrest of Kevin Cogill is great for the recording industry related to our online investigations. We are very pleased with the FBI's interest and the U.S. attorney's office's aggressiveness in pursuing this investigation," Leodler said. "We think we'll see more and more of these pre-release cases."

"What's interesting is how was this pitched to the U.S. attorney as a prosecution priority," said Peter Jaszi, an American University law professor. "In Los Angeles, the music industry is, in fact, a significant local industry. But why pursue this person out of all the other alleged copyright violations out there?"

Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agreed. She said that when lawmakers passed the tougher anti-piracy legislation, they probably didn't have this kind of situation in mind.

"They had in mind the commercial pirates selling 'Harry Potter, not this guy in Culver City posting some songs on his blog to make a point," she said.

-- Michelle Quinn

Photo: Fans screaming at a Guns N' Roses show in 2006. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
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