Monday, April 24, 2006


Those fine moral guardians, the RIAA, are facing yet another federal investigation. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ordered Universal and EMI to hand over papers as part of an investigation into whether the labels misled the government during an antitrust probe.

It relates to the earlier enquiry into claims that the big labels had attempted to strangle off legal downloads in order to protect CD sales:

During the investigation, the joint ventures and their record label parents each submitted a "white paper" to the DOJ summarizing their arguments. They also provided documents that included redacted, or blacked out, sections to remove privileged material.

The U.S. Justice Department abandoned the probe in December 2003, citing no evidence of wrongdoing.

Napster investor Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Bertelsmann's co-defendant in the lawsuit, charged that the arguments offered in the white papers were known to be false or misleading.

In the ruling, Patel said Hummer Winblad provided reasonable cause to believe that information in the white papers was "deliberately misleading."

So while nothing has yet been proved, we're just preparing the ground for the moral equivalence here - now, if downloading an uncleared track is, on the RIAA scale, equal to stealing an album from a shop, then lying to the federal government must be at least akin to setting fire to a naval dockyard.

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