Piracy Wars Get Uglier

For more than five years, the RIAA has attempted to stem piracy by litigating against individual file-sharers. Now, the group has arranged to have a blogger indicted for posting tracks from an unreleased Guns N' Roses album.

The blogger, ex-Universal Music employee Kevin Cogill, posted nine tracks of the unreleased "Chinese Democracy" album in June. Some had been leaked previously, but three were apparently new.

Fans flooded his site, Antiquiet, causing it to crash. A cease-and-desist soon followed, and Cogill took down the tracks, but not before other fans made copies.

The incident also sparked a wave of press coverage, including an article in Rolling Stone, in which Cogill said that the FBI had contacted him, as did Axl Rose's lawyers. The blogger also said he destroyed the originals at Rose's lawyer's request.

Monday, Cogill posted news on his blog that an arrest seemed imminent. "More and more each day, it looks like I may be indicted," he wrote. Cogill has been released on $10,000 bail, but is facing up to three years of prison under a 2005 statute that makes it illegal to post unreleased files online.

The RIAA is likely to try to use this arrest to scare people into thinking that file-sharing can lead to criminal charges. But this case is very different from the typical copyright infringement action. Posting tracks that musicians haven't approved for release isn't comparable to sharing files that are available on the radio -- and consumers understand that.

The RIAA's attempts at scaring people away from file-sharing haven't worked in the past. There's no reason to think that it's going to work now either.

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