Too Good to Be Legal

Fake news from the music industry

The Recording Industry Association of America has a warning for music fans: If an album seems too good to be legal, it probably is.

In a “video news release” sent to television stations shortly before Christmas, the trade group warns: “Watch for compilation CDs that could only exist in the dreams of a music fan.” The video, which many stations aired as though it were a normal news report, makes a number of dubious claims. It asserts, for example, that the “audio quality on pirated CDs is usually atrocious.”

But the most striking aspect of the “report” is the implicit admission that the legitimate industry does not produce the compilations consumers find most enticing, leaving that niche to the pirates. The video release advises people to employ “cool, innovative ways to get your favorite music,” such as iTunes, or just to buy an artist’s entire CD even if they want only one or two songs from it.

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