Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Fascinating piece over on EconoCulture which reports in depth on a raid on a New York record store which was selling dodgy cds. There's some interesting details there. The shop - Kims - believed it was dealing in CD-R mixtapes rather than fake CDs. That could have been what got it into trouble. But the way the RIAA behaves, you don't really need to be doing anything wrong to get yourself on the wrong side of the line.

For example, they have scans of the key legal documents provided by the RIAA "expert" confirming the CDs are fake. Now, you might think they'd at least take the trouble to provide something specific, wouldn't you? Say, "This album appears to be bootleg because the quality of the CD case is low, and instead of the booklet provided with the legitimate release, there is just a poorly-reproduced one sheet insert." After all, this is a serious business.

But no; the "expert" is given a preprinted single sheet and just asked to tick which of the typical pieces of evidence he believes he's found somewhere in the seized CDs - 471 alleged fakes, dealt with in five ticks, and not actual attempt to offer any clear link between the supposed evidence and the actual seized CDs. That's surprisingly slapdash - imagine if the police rounded up a gang of suspected terrorists and all they had to do was put some ticks on a form: "These people are identified as terrorists for the following reasons-
.... looking a bit foreign
.... going near a train
.... interest in public buildings"

Actually, we probably shouldn't give Charles Clarke ideas, should we?

The RIAA also claimed to have seized "nine CD-R burners", which does make the store sound like it could be a hotbed of piracy, until you discover that actually, this is just nine bogstandard PCs as you'd find in any office rather than high-end duplication equipment. Look around your office - they'd be able to suggest you were producing more CDs than Warners. (Although, admittedly, that wouldn't be difficult the way they're going.)

What's more disturbing, though, is the heavy-handedness:

about 20 law enforcement officials had swooped into the store and that the cops were dressed “like SWAT guys” who were saying something about a warrant from the Supreme Court that allowed them to search the premises. When describing the scene, Bettis might as well be discussing an obscure film noir filed in his store’s cult section:“It was this crazy, eerie feeling. I mean, cops come in Kim’s all the time, but not like that. At the time, it was really scary. It felt like a full-on raid.

Econoculture end up by posing five questions the RIAA are reluctant to answer - which is odd; if they're going to behave like they're the police, shouldn't they be answerable to the public?:

1) When considering to investigate and prosecute CD-R and mix-tape sellers, did you consider the cultural implications in so far as mixtapes and CD-Rs comprise a huge avenue for underground artists and DJs to ply their trade and get noticed?

2) In looking at statistics from your website, a huge percentage of stores raided were Latino businesses--why is that?

3) What was the basis of your investigation into Kim's--how did RIAA investigators learn that Kim's may be selling or manufacturing CD's?

4) Can you please provide to me a copy of the affadavit for the search warrant?

5) I understand that RIAA investigators can raid--without a search warrant--any record store that they suspect is selling or manufacturing pirated CDs--is this true?

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