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Guns N’ Roses ‘Chinese Democracy’ Leak: The Inside Story

Guns N' Roses, 'Chinese Democracy'
Geffen Records

If you’re interested in Guns N’ Roses, 21st-century copyright law or just love any story in which federal agents draw their weapons on a music writer in his boxers, you’ll want to pack a lunch and pull up a chair, because the 8,000-word tale of how Antiquiet publisher Kevin Cogill got himself in legal hot water for leaking GNR’s ‘Chinese Democracy’ has finally been told.

Cogill, who wrangled himself free of the case years ago, says he continues to receive interview requests about the incident, which unfolded in the summer of 2008 after he made the (in retrospect, rather rash) decision to take nine tracks from the seemingly never-ending ‘Chinese Democracy’ sessions and stream them on his site. Even though he didn’t offer the songs for download — and they weren’t up for very long, as the resulting spike in site traffic quickly forced Cogill to pull the files — he found himself in the crosshairs of a high-profile federal case.

Given that he couldn’t really deny that he had shared the files, one might assume that the case against Cogill would have been relatively open-and-shut, but as he points out in his post, part of the prosecution’s case hinged on proving that there were actually plans to officially release the album — and given that, at that point, ‘Chinese Democracy’ had taken on something approaching urban-legend status, the government found itself at a disadvantage. And once the defense’s attorney, in Cogill’s words, “knocked out any talk of a felony copyright charge in the first round,” the case tumbled into a messy and expensive battle over a misdemeanor.

From Cogill’s perspective, the whole thing sounds like a nightmare, but for the reader, it’s both educational and entertaining — a snarky, insightful look at how the RIAA’s panicked efforts to restore order in the digital era have contributed to some expensively ill-advised decisions on the part of the record industry, as well as some thought-provoking stuff about the extent to which artists are harmed (or can benefit) from pre-release leaks. The post is well worth a read, and you can check out the whole thing here.

Next: 5 'Chinese Democracy' Songs You Need to Hear Again

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