But the Recording Industry Association of America thinks sales would have been even greater had Kevin Cogill not posted tracks on his blog last year, before the official album release date. Cogill was arrested last year and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. At the time, his lawyer anticipated the court would place Cogill on probation.
Now, in a victim impact statement, the RIAA says that leak cost it more than $3 million. The organization arrived at that figure by multiplying the estimated number of unauthorized downloads (which it pegged at 350,000) by the retail cost of the album ($8.91).
But there's a problem with this math: Not everyone who downloaded would have otherwise purchased the album. Some of the downloaders might have spent money on a CD, but others might have ripped free streams, or borrowed copies from friends, or simply have ignored the album altogether. In fact, at least one other court has recognized that downloads don't equate to lost sales.
The music industry has said it will be happy with $30,000 in restitution and public service announcements by Cogill.
Cogill has other problems, though. The prosecutor in the case is demanding prison time, even though the probation department recommended a sentence of probation. Why? The U.S. Attorney's Office says probation won't adequately protect the music industry: "The recommendation does not reflect -- or discuss -- the gravity of the offense and will do nothing to deter other would-be leakers in this rapidly expanding threat to the music industry," the prosecutor argued in papers filed with the court.
Frankly, it's going to take a lot more resources than anything the U.S. Attorney's Office has at its disposal to protect the record labels from the threat to their business model posed by the Web. It's long past time the music industry came up with a business plan that acknowledges the reality that tracks will leak online and fans will share them.