Free CD’s anyone?

By Andrei Codrescu

Would you like a free CD of Whitney Houston’s version of the “Star-Spangled Banner?” No? How about a totally, absolutely free CD of “Entertainment Weekly”’s “Greatest Hits 1971?” Not that either? Well, if you don’t even want [ital] one [unital] of those immortal CD’s, howdja like 1,200 copies of Houston and 375 of the “EW” hits of ’71? I didn’t think so.

Think how the Milwaukee Public Library feels. One day, a rain of these free CD’s came down on the poor staff at the M.P.L. and they haven’t been the same since. Nor is the Milwaukee Public Library the only lucky recipient of such bounty from the music biz. It turns out that a price-fixing settlement against five recording labels and three music retailers led to the brilliant idea of emptying their warehouses and dumping multiple copies on libraries all over the country. My friend Rochelle, an outraged librarian, writes that “it’s created a huge burden, particularly for small libraries which don’t have the space, and certainly not the staff to sort, catalog and deal with the record keeping involved in disposal or trade of the stuff. The kicker is that libraries aren’t even allowed to give away any unusable CD’s, and they can only sell 10 percent of them, and have to document it, and prove that the proceeds go toward the purchase of additional music.”

I feel for the librarians. This is just another symptom of a system that allows corporations to dump on the public. Libraries are bad off as it is, with budget cuts and Republicanism gone rampant, they don’t need another chokehold on their services. Surplus cheese was bad enough, but at least you could eat the stuff (gag, gag). But what in the world can you do with Whitney Houston’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner?” Maybe play it at top volume as you meditate on just how far the republic has fallen.

Corporations acting egregiously is nothing new. All you have to do is look at all the phony charges on your monthly bills or try to get through voice-mail hell while trying to get some of these corp’s to fix their own mistakes. But when the rules are also skewed in their favor by a “business-friendly” government, and they screw up your public library, too, then it’s time to start using those CD’s in some other fashion. Don’t ask. I’m sure you can think of something.



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