Paradise City Lost


A solid story from the "Threat Level" at Wired.com:

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are pursuing a 6-month prison term for a Los Angeles man who pleaded guilty in December to one misdemeanor count of uploading pre-release Guns N' Roses tracks, according to court documents.

A year ago, Kevin Cogill was arrested at gunpoint for participating in "one of the more insidious forms of copyright infringement." Cogill should certainly be punished for one thing, namely, forcing GNR's Chinese Democracy upon the world earlier than expected. But a six-month prison term and $2.2 million in restitution seems a little much.

Prosecutor Craig H. Missakian said the state's appetite for destruction is justified because:

…Guns N' Roses put their blood, sweat, toil and tears into the creative process… And this country has seen fit to protect their rights – and in doing so foster and encourage the creative process by which all of society benefits."

So what about the rights of an individual, say, the Eighth Amendment, for example? The sentence and fine Missakian is seeking is definitely cruel. What's particularly unusual is how prosecutors decided to put the cost of Cogill's horrendous crime at $371,622:  

This number is based on a sample of 30 out of 1,310 unauthorized web sites that offered the leaked songs to the public…Of those 30 sites, the government said there were 16,976 downloads of Chinese Democracy.

It is most likely that this number represents the number of downloads of the group of 9 leaked songs, for a total of 152,784 downloads of individual songs…It is, however, not possible to say at this time whether the figure represents the group of 9 songs or individual songs.

Notice it wasn't necessarily Cogill who offered the songs. And the prosecution said it gave Cogill the "benefit of the doubt" that the magical number of 16,976 downloads did in fact come from individual songs. The RIAA said it would take just $30,000, if Cogill "was willing to participate in a public service announcement designed to educate the public that music piracy is illegal."

How generous of them.

Last year, Wired reported on donations the entertainment industry gave Los Angeles officials to expand the "definition of a nuisance property from those infested with drugs, gangs, gambling and prostitution to include a property producing, selling or storing counterfeited content."

Boy, there sure is a lot the generosity in paradise city.

Check out the RIAA's hilarious PSA here. Reason Managing Editor Jesse Walker has several pieces about digital copyright law. Great piracy and copyright coverage near, dear and here.