Hollywood Cracks Down On "Music Leaks"

Fake News written by Ann Oneemuss on Tuesday, December 17, 2002

from the putting-a-finger-in-the-dike dept.

BARSTOW, CA -- It's 7:31 PM and Special RIAA Enforcement Agent Gus Toppoh hits the pavement armed with his hand-held sound meter. This night he's investigating a house at 151 Pleasant Pine Grove Hill Estates Road that, according to one anonymous informer, has been playing loud, copyrighted music at night without a public performance license. Sure enough, at 1,000 feet away, his meter detects music at a decible level that far exceeds the legal limit. It's time to crash the party.

Such investigative legwork has been increasingly common as the RIAA and other paranoid industry-trade groups have ramped up their efforts to stop music "leaks".

"Well, it's obviously theft," said Agent Toppoh just before busting down the door of the house. "Because of the illegally high volume level, everybody in this neighborhood can enjoy the music without paying for it. If you look at any CD case, the End Peon License Agreement clearly states that the music shall only be used for the personal enjoyment of exactly one person. If anybody else in the vicinity can hear it, then you're in violation of the license, unless you purchase additional CDs or beg for a public performance license."

During the night, Toppoh busted 13 people for deliberately "leaking" music protected by intellectual property law. One mall that played Christmas music over its loudspeakers without the express written permission of the RIAA (they only had vague oral permission from a music store employee) now faces a $400K fine. A CompUSSR store manager was fined for tuning his floor-model televisions to MTV, allowing customers to listen to music videos without paying any royalties. (The manager argued that MTV doesn't play music videos anyway, but Toppoh was unconvinced. "Stranger things have happened," he said while writing the citation.)

One person was even busted for whistling a tune from a 1974 song while walking down a sidewalk, in plain hearing of several people. "It's a public performance of a copyprotected song," Gus Toppoh said. "I have to write a ticket."

Meanwhile, the owner of an office tower managed to escape serious punishment when Agent Toppoh came calling. "I assumed the musak playing in the elevators was a violation," Toppoh said, "but it turned out that the owner did indeed have a license. But I still issued a verbal warning because it took him five minutes to find the contract in his safe, a severe waste of my precious time."

"All in all, it's a tough job," he said while cruising down the highway, his eyes watching the series of microphones mounted on his car that continually search for stray waves of copyrighted music. "But I love it. It's all about stopping pirates and thieves from bankrupting the music industry and protecting our Constitutional right to innovate. Now if you'll excuse me, my sensors detect an illegal broadcast of 'Happy Birthday' coming from this church..."

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