Nashville, TN - August 24, 2006 - Jim Vines, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, announced that Robert Thomas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Jared Chase Bowser of Jacksonville, Florida have entered guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger to a criminal violation of federal copyright laws pertaining to recorded music. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 1 year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. Sentencing is scheduled for December 8, 2006.
The charges stem from a federal investigation launched in response to a complaint last year from Lost Highway Records and Universal Music Group, regarding several songs from an album of music on which they held the copyright, that had been made available to the public on an Internet web site. At the time, the album "Jacksonville City Nights" by Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, had not yet been released to the public, but was nonetheless available via the website, and could be downloaded and copied for free by anyone with Internet access.
At the guilty plea, Bowser admitted that he had obtained a copy of the album that had been provided to a music reviewer in advance of public release. Bowser sent digital copies of the album to Thomas, via the Internet. Thomas likewise admitted that after receiving the music from Bowser, he posted internet links to electronically stored copies of songs from the album on an Internet website that he administered, which was available to the public. The FBI investigation confirmed that the website was accessed by a person in Nashville who downloaded two of the songs. Both men admitted that they hoped those who obtained the songs they had made available would reciprocate by providing them with other free copyrighted music.
"Recorded music is protected from misappropriation and unauthorized use under federal law" said United States Attorney Jim Vines. "Recording artists and the labels they record for have an enforceable right to control what happens to the works they have expended time, effort and money in creating. Misappropriation and unauthorized distribution of those works, even if no money changes hands, is no different than the theft of a tangible object, like a car, which the true owner has a right to possess and control. People who knowingly engage in criminal copyright violations with regard to music, film or other federally protected intellectual property need to know that they are subject to federal prosecution. Federal law enforcement agencies in the Middle District of Tennessee are paying attention, and we will pursue these cases fairly, but aggressively."
The case was investigated by John McMurtrie, who is assigned to the cybercrime squad of the FBI office in Nashville. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trey Hester and Byron Jones, who are assigned to the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section (CHIPS) of the United States Attorneys Office, which focuses on computer crimes and intellectual property offenses.