Read the Fascinating Story Behind the 2008 Chinese Democracy Leak and Legal Battle
Chinese Democracy came out more than five years ago — just about a third of the time it took Axl Rose to record and release it! — which means that its legend has already begun to fade. Teenagers just getting into hard rock and metal now may or may not even know that its production costs are the highest of any album of all time (a title it’s not likely to ever lose, now that recording budgets and record label advances are a fraction of what they were in GN’R’s heyday), and they certainly don’t remember the interminable wait for its release. I still maintain that there is probably an amazing tell-all book to be written by the people who worked on the album that weren’t Axl Rose, but regardless, in 2014, it’s hardly understandable that material from the album leaking prior to its official release was a really, REALLY big deal when it occurred. Such a big deal, in fact, that Antiquiet‘s Kevin “Skwerl” Cogill, who leaked nine completed or nearly-completed songs from the album in 2008, was arrested by the FBI.
Cogill eventually got off with what amounts to a legal slap on the wrist, and all this time later, with his various legal dramas finally settled for good, he has now decided to tell the entire story (or at least his version of the entire story) of how he obtained the then-unreleased material, and his subsequent battles with the FBI, the RIAA, and the Guns camp itself.
Now, if you’re thinking, “Yeah, I’m not gonna read that — I don’t give a shit about Guns N’ Roses or Chinese Democracy,” I would say to you: read this anyway. Because the fascinating part really has very little to do with GN’R or this specific album… it has to do with how the FBI and the RIAA handled the whole situation.
Take, for example, this description of Cogill’s initial meeting with his attorney, David Kaloyanides, in which the lawyer immediately noticed a giant, gaping hole in the FBI’s case against Cogill:
“We were facing a criminal copyright charge under 17 USC §506(a)(1)(c) as [the RIAA’s] Tommy Rackleff had recommended [to the FBI], but David pointed out a rather obvious flaw: For that statute to be applicable, the work would need to be demonstrably headed towards a public release, and for it to apply to me, the court would have to prove that I had reason to believe that it was in fact being prepared for commercial distribution. In other words, the US government would have to prove, in court, that Chinese Democracy was really coming. And no one at the RIAA or the label had informed the government that these songs had been lying around for 14 years. Only that they had cost $12 million. The government would soon come to realize the RIAA had given them a pretty shitty case.”
In other words, as Cogill later puts it, “the government of this country that we love so much let a bunch of lobbyists do their homework for them.” Which is, y’know. Fucking embarrassing. And totally horrifying.
Just as interesting is Cogill’s assertion that his leaks, in fact, ultimately proved beneficial to both the band and their label:
“Then there was the Best Buy deal. Chinese Democracy was finally released on November 23rd, 2008, exclusively at Best Buy, about 20 weeks after my leaks. That’s from no concrete plans, to going up on shelves. Pretty quickly, especially if we’re talking about the poster child for album delays. What did we know about that deal? Best Buy paid a large up front sum for the exclusive, at least seven figures, by all reports. We obtained evidence showing that the value of that exclusive was determined largely by the media hype my leaks had created. UMG had shown Best Buy charts of Google traffic for Chinese Democracy that started spiking in June [when Cogill leaked the tracks], and was riding high. The iron was hot, so to speak. And before Best Buy got on board, the only heat source was the fire under my ass.”
I have no idea if there’s any truth to that or not, but it certainly seems plausible enough.
In any case, Cogill’s entire piece is a very long read, but I think it’s totally worth it. Check it out here.
[via The PRP]