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Lawyers, Guns N' Roses

The FBI this week arrested a Los Angeles blogger for posting nine songs from the upcoming and long-delayed Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy. At his blog May it Please the Court, lawyer J. Craig Williams says that one interesting aspect of the case is that it will require a defense attorney schooled both in copyright and criminal defense -- and such an attorney could be hard to find.

The blogger, Kevin Cogill, was arrested after posting the songs to his music-review blog Antiquiet. On Wednesday, he was brought into federal court in California wearing handcuffs and pajamas before being released on a $10,000 bond. Two days before his arrest, in a prescient post titled "Any Lawyers Out There?", Cogill admitted posting the songs and anticipated his indictment. "If there are any lawyers out there horny for some high-profile copyright law battle, drop us a line," he wrote.

But Williams says the right lawyer could be hard to find. "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." A public defender represented Cogill at Wednesday's hearing. Even with the right lawyer, Williams adds, the blogger's defense will be difficult:

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. ... It's unclear whether [Cogill] 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.

The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case said that the tip-off to the blog's posts came from the RIAA. "We take this type of crime very seriously," he said. Guns N' Roses is remaining mum, other than to fire off a brief statement saying, "Though we don't support this guy's actions at that level, our interest is in the original source." More on point is this quote from another popular recording artist: "Send lawyers, guns and money, the shit has hit the fan."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 29, 2008 at 12:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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