A pair of apparent Ryan Adams fans ran afoul of a new law making it a crime to publish songs before their release to the general public when they made portions of the singer’s latest album available on a Web site frequented by his fans.
Robert Thomas of Milwaukee and Jared Bowser of Jacksonville, Fla., were indicted under a provision of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA) law that makes it a separate federal crime to pirate music and movies before they are released to the public, Memphis-based U.S. attorney Jim Vines and FBI special agent My Harrison said.
The indictments are believed to be the first under the prerelease provision of the 2005 FECA law. The men are alleged to have posted portions of Adams’ “Jacksonville City Nights” on a fan Web site about a month before its official release last September. Adams records for Lost Highway Records, whose Universal Music Group parent did not grant authority for the Internet distribution.
“Any perception that copyright violations are victimless crimes is just plain wrong,” Vines said. “Whether stolen intellectual property is given away or sold by thieves for a profit, the rightful owners of such property are still hurt. Many individual and corporate victims of copyright crimes live, work and create here in the middle district of Tennessee, and persons who knowingly violate federal copyright law face serious consequences whether or not they intend to harm anyone. Federal copyright violations are both a national and local priority and will be aggressively prosecuted in this district.”
If convicted on all counts, the defendants each face a potential of 11 years in prison. The case was investigated by FBI agents and is being prosecuted by the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section of the United States Attorney’s Office.
Recording Industry Association of America chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol said the indictments were particularly gratifying as they come from the heart of music country.
“Prerelease piracy is a particularly damaging and onerous form of theft,” he said. “It robs artists of the chance to sell their music before it even hits the streets or becomes legally available online, and the ripple effects are felt far and wide throughout the entire music community — especially when that theft strikes in Nashville, the very heart of our industry.