April 23, 2005

I predict a riot

It really annoyed me when CD companies starting putting FBI anti-piracy messages on the back of CDs. I was all like, shut up! I bought the CD. I'm contributing my goddamn money to your dark satanic mills! Get off my back!

The first such warning I remember seeing was on the back of Elvis Costello's "The Delivery Man". Elvis clearly wasn't pleased about it being there, adding this disclaimer above it: "This artist does not endorse the following warning. The FBI doesn't have his home phone number and he hopes that they don't have yours."

Well, I just bought the new Kaiser Chiefs CD -- which, I feel I should point out, I downloaded in its entirety before purchasing. You know, I was dubious about the album because I felt like, oh god, another cheeky young British band coming in on the heels of the Futureheads and their ilk, it can't be that good, can it? But I liked it quite a bit, so I threw it in the shopping cart the next time I went on one of my periodic CD binges (also buying all the Go-Betweens reissues that I did not already have, the new live Los Lobos album, and the new Beck).

When it arrived, I was mildly annoyed to see the back cover defaced with FBI chiding:


Note that the warning is repeated twice!


Maybe they figure people might not take the big flashy warning seriously, but if they see it in the fine print, they'll think, "Oh, crap, they really mean it!"

So anyway -- whatever, I thought. This is the world we live in. I put up with the idiotic "comics code" insignia in my youth, and I guess I can put up with this now. Then I opened the case and saw this:


Yes! They had stuck an anti-piracy warning smack in the middle of the CD itself! On top of a pretty spiffy design! This...is unacceptable. I know the white-on-off-white is hard to make out, so here's a Photoshopped-like-crazy close-up that makes the text more visible and may also provide a little frisson of remembering what it was like to go into the room with the blacklights at Spencer's Gifts when you were a kid:


This all seems like the dumbest fucking idea in the world. I just want to shake every single moron who works for the RIAA by the lapels and say to them, "Do you understand? The thing that makes me want to buy CDs is that I am a geek who enjoys having physical objects around. If you go around stamping ugly text directly on the artwork in a CD's packaging, you are decreasing my incentive to want to buy it, because you are making it objectively less attractive as an object."

Thank god I've got a big stockpile of cheeky British post-punk music to listen to when I've worked myself up into such a state.

Posted by Francis at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

Yeah when I first saw that warning, I got more mad than I ever was before and have since ceased buying CDs completely. I now rent CDs (and DVDS) from the library, and burn them, laughing diabolically. I hope they arent listening to me right now. But yeah, fight the power man.

Posted by: Mary at April 23, 2005 02:06 PM

Very interesting Mr. Heaney. This will be noted in your file.

Posted by: Tom at April 24, 2005 10:28 PM

You silly americans. Come and live in Canada/europe.

Posted by: demand at April 25, 2005 11:42 PM


You can rent CD's from the library?

Who the fuck thought that up, and what were *they* thinking? :P

Posted by: Pavel at April 26, 2005 12:18 AM

Yeah that really sucks, as a graphic designer i'd be extremely pissed off if someone destroyed my work like that.

Posted by: Adam at April 26, 2005 12:31 AM

you know all those spifty display things you can buy where you basically put CDs and their artwork in sleeves that cover your wall? that industry, however small, is now officially dead.

And the cd artwork is so pretty without being defaced by that dumbass warning.

I suspect that quite a few of the mp3s on the internet were ripped from pre-releases anyway. The people who captain the pirate ship by sharing mp3 files are either not going to buy the cd in the first place or are really excited about the music and want you to be too. So punishing consumers by defacing their goods is just not going to work in any way whatsoever and will piss off the paying customers.

Posted by: emily. at April 26, 2005 12:32 AM

I too buy CDs after I have a chance to try them out, via P2P. If I bought a CD and they covered up the art, like they did here, I would be very pissed, very very pissed.

Posted by: Ookami Snow at April 26, 2005 12:46 AM

does RIAA not understand that the CDs that are pirated online don't come from people that are buying CDs?
music fans are fucked in the ass no matter what they do.
how long untill there is an audio warning before every song? in the middle of every song?
I wonder how music artists feel about thier covers and artwork being destroyed.
how much longer untill CD covers are just a giant warning lable with a tiny cover in the lower corner?

by the way, Mary.. you borrow from libraries, you do not rent from libraries.

Posted by: GURT at April 26, 2005 12:57 AM

We gotta take the power back!

I don't know. I've given up hope. If the artist is someone who I respect then I purchase it, but if the artist is dead, then I usually don't mind too much. However, the newer bands, if they impress me I will guarenteed purchase their cd. But since your run in with the RIAA, I will think twice about what I purchase.

It's really sad that this is happened. But its happened with DVDs now as well. But France made a vital step in consumer rights, so well, lets go to France.

Posted by: Phillip at April 26, 2005 01:21 AM

you should take that shit back. just to make a point. that is horrendous. i can't believe they stuck it right on the CD like that. now i know why i just let my brother do the music buying and have him share whatever is worthwhile.

Posted by: eric at April 26, 2005 01:42 AM

a reason not to buy major label releases. if an artist surrenders the right to full control over the art on the cd, they're likely to surrender control of the music itself.

then there are artists that just suck, like radiohead.

Posted by: vagina602 at April 26, 2005 01:59 AM

I picked up the new Glen Phillips tonight. It too has the sidebar and seal on the back of the case. It repeats this on the CD itself, knocked out of the label ink with an overall area larger than what's used for the artist name and album title. The latest The Soundtrack Of Our Lives CD has the warning printed in gigantic type twice around the perimeter of the CD. It's a complete mess.

And Mary, laugh diabolically all you like, but it's you I have to thank for this crap.

Posted by: Rob at April 26, 2005 02:10 AM

A great contribution to the whole copying vs. sharing vs. DRM debate. What surprized me most is that the warning is on both the cover and the disk itself. How silly! I completely agree with you that defacing CD's with such warnings is definitely not an incentive to buy, and I seriously do not think the warnings will stop piracy. It's not the greatest argument in the world but: people still smoke, and we're talking cancer warnings here.

Posted by: Oleg at April 26, 2005 03:35 AM

Such a valid point dude, this is such rubbish. Well the RIAA just keeps cutting it's own throat by making the only reason to buy the "real deal" a non-issue. Thanks RIAA, you've achieved f**k all, once again! Look forward to my trackback, buddy. :)

Posted by: Mitch at April 26, 2005 04:29 AM

The funny thing is, because certain albums have that copy-controlled malarky on them in Australia, I tend to buy those from the US, and noticed that they're starting to come with the FBI warning. They really are trying to kill the market for CDs, eh?

Posted by: Graham at April 26, 2005 05:03 AM

The last three CDs I bought in Switzerland had the same butt ugly FBI warning printed on them. WTF? Why would the FBI be a single bit relevant in a foreign country? What about the Swiss public prosecution authority, local laws, ...?

Posted by: Oliver at April 26, 2005 05:05 AM

Totally agree with you. I've even bought records purely for the artwork and never listened to the music more than once. It is an intrinsic part of the object purchased. Cover design is recognised as artwork, there are numerous books and essays on the subject.
Album: Style and Image in Sleeve Design - Nick de Ville
CD - Art: The Cutting Edge of CD Packaging - Charlotte Rivers
The Golden Age of Jazz Covers
- Angelynn Grant http://www.angelynngrant.com/writing/GoldenAge.html
See also her essay Album Cover Design, Past Influences, Present Struggles, Future Predictions http://www.commarts.com/ca/feadesign/album/
The most beautiful sleeves of 2004
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/fridayreview/story/0,12102,1374952,00.html
And just to pick on one obvious example of a band attempting to integrate its visual and musical aesthetic - The Music and Art of Radiohead - edited by Joeseph Tate - http://pulk-pull.org/radiohead/book/toc.html (Stuck this in mainly cos Stanley Donwood rules)

The FBI warnings are simply defacement and should be illegal.

After all what is the point? Why not paint over The Mona Lisa with a similar warning? Print a warning over every picture in every magazine, every poster you ever stick on your wall, every sculpture, every antique...

You don't have to print warning details over every single object, ignorance of the law is no defence and anyway it's an immense waste of money. If you must warn people a simple sign by the store checkout or website would suffice.


Posted by: Tim at April 26, 2005 05:11 AM

I hope you had permission to copy and distribute those FBI warnings. After all, unauthorised copying is punishable under federal law. I think. I'm sure I read that somewhere....

Posted by: NRT at April 26, 2005 06:06 AM

Yeah... That's about the dumbest thing I've ever seen in the last 5 minutes. Face it; we live in a country full of lawyers. Two summers ago when I bought a squirt gun - a *squirt gun*! - there was a freaking warning label on the package, and another one molded into the plastic of the gun itself. Warning labels on knives caution you that they may be sharp, which is even more idiotic than the warning on a McDonald's coffee cup warning you that your coffee might actually not be cold. This is just more of the same. Corporate America (and there really is no other kind of America left) feels the need to slap warnings and cautions and advisories on everything, to the point where nobody reads any of it anymore, and yet the courts will act as though we actually do waste 25% of our lives reading all the legal crap we are supposed to. And no, Corporate America doesn't give a shit about art, *or* what you, the consumer, want.

Posted by: Wolfger at April 26, 2005 06:10 AM

This is horrible. I know I won't want to buy any CD that has been through this kind of treatment. I mean, why can't they just have this printet on a paper slip that's inside the case? And a paper card inside that lays on top of the CD with the same warning? That would be ok. This is just stupid.

Posted by: Vrioniavas at April 26, 2005 06:45 AM

Above all, it's an insult to our intelligence, repeating the same message over and over. Did you notice it's also scrawled around the edge of the disk? Hope Agent Smith ain't looking at this...

Posted by: Neil Barnish at April 26, 2005 07:26 AM

This is big brother watching over us...

Posted by: anton at April 26, 2005 07:27 AM

Almost every CD I've bought in the past 6 mo.s I've downloaded first. I just got tired of buying a CD and only one song being any good!

Betcha never thought of that Copyright police did ya?

And am I the only one who remembers taping songs off the radio to play later?

Posted by: Donna at April 26, 2005 07:49 AM

Holy shit, I did *not* notice that the warning also goes around the perimeter of the CD. Well, you know what they say, I guess: the fourth time's the charm.

Posted by: Francis at April 26, 2005 08:12 AM

The good news is with a ill-gotten P2P album download, you can preview the outer artwork and CD label ahead of time (assuming the rip is from the same market (country) that you live in...) Educate yourself consumers. Buyers beware.

RIAA and record companies: You are freaking out because I'm not buying your products. Why are you making the products less desirable? Back to economics class you go.

Posted by: George at April 26, 2005 08:16 AM

why don't we just start boycotting the labels that do this sort of thing? and why are artists signing up on labels that promote this terrible behavior? shouldn't they have better morals about who is going to release their album? or are they only concerned about the distro? shouldn't we be boycotting them too?

Posted by: bee at April 26, 2005 09:41 AM

Gurt, ixnay on the orrowbay. We got a good thing going here with Mary.

Posted by: Joe The Librarian at April 26, 2005 09:42 AM

The amusing thing is that by posting the artwork you're actually violating the same copyright law that the FBI notice is warning you about.

Posted by: beezel at April 26, 2005 10:40 AM

Bee: Here's a little thought experiment for you. You are a young musician who would like to be a rock star. A record label offers you a lucrative contract. Do you (a) tell them, "No way! You're a powerful record company with lots of money that use can use to promote me and my band, and I want no part of that!" or (b) keep your day job in data entry?

Beezel: Somehow I don't think this is the sort of copying they were talking about. But even if it were, given that my post is commentary, I think you'll find this is all covered pretty securely under fair use.

Posted by: Francis at April 26, 2005 11:12 AM

Actually, use of the FBI warning and the cover art in this context should be covered by Fair Use.

Posted by: Alex at April 26, 2005 02:19 PM

how long until it gets this bad..?

Posted by: Brian at April 26, 2005 03:23 PM

This is truly horrible, but I find the FBI warnings THAT YOU CAN'T FFWD THROUGH to be much worse. That's why I rip my DVDs with DVDShrink to remove warnings, previews, commercials, and "user prohibited actions"

Funny that the CD FBI warning tells you that "unauthorized copying" is punishable by law, I'm pretty sure that ripping my CD for iPod use is unauthorized (though it is fair use). This is the whole reason the RIAA is claiming poverty, with earlier format changes vinyl>tape>CD you had to re-buy your library, now you can rip whatever you already bought to iPod, ring tone, whatever.

Posted by: nathan at April 26, 2005 03:24 PM

I wonder if all this buggered up art is the reason this CD was on sale last week at Target for 7$???

Didn't buy it - had the songs I likek from iTMS (Pepsi).

Posted by: r reeves at April 26, 2005 04:17 PM

thoughtcriminals, all of you. go back to being afraid and consuming oil-based products like GW wants you too.

Posted by: phil freely at April 26, 2005 05:13 PM

Be like me - stop buying any music other than that put out by small, non-RIAA affiliated labels. Support the small artists and labels as much as you can. Support microdistribution and let the RIAA and its worldwide consortium ROT!

And one last thing - you know what's fun? Those free trial offers for DVD's-by-mail from Blockbuster, Netflix and Wal-Mart. See how many you can rip/burn in a single month!

Posted by: James at April 26, 2005 06:03 PM

francis: funny that you should mention that thought experiment, because here i am .. a young musician.. am i looking to be a rockstar? we so long as it is on my terms.. i will never accept a record deal with any label that is affiliated with the RIAA because i do not believe in their practices.. i give most all my songs away for free.. only asking for money now and then to cover costs for thos that want to help.. so how do i plan on making it? i would like to be able to make money performing shows for people that want to come see my bands play.. they can have the music.. i make it at home, and it is something i would do whether or not there was money involved at all.. it is a hobby.. a passion.. and if rockstardom doesn't come around.. well i am happy being a librarian (sorry, not data entry)
all i am saying is don't just blame the labels and the riaa.. artists need to make moral decisions too..

Posted by: bee at April 26, 2005 06:06 PM

Well, Bee, then I absolutely commend you on the choices you've made. And yet I don't have it in me to judge other artists too harshly for not taking the path of most resistance. And while it's true that I also pursue my creative interests out of love of creativity, I'd really like it if I were making enough money from them that I could spend less time doing the noncreative things that I currently do to avoid, you know, living on the street. Of course, I wouldn't get myself embroiled in a major label music deal (not that any major labels are ever likely to be interested in my music), but that's because the last thing I trust a major record label to do is to ever earn me any money -- I know what happened to XTC, after all. But artists are victimized by the industry as much as anyone else. What to do? It's a quandary.

Posted by: Francis at April 26, 2005 06:42 PM

"I am a geek who enjoys having physical objects around."
My comment is off-topic, but your use of the word geek caught my eye. With all due respect, what is it about enjoying having physical objects around that would make one a geek?

Posted by: Matt Hutson at April 26, 2005 06:48 PM

In my (and many of my acquaintances') idiolect, "geek" is a term that implies more of a certain obsessive level of interest in something and less of "I'm a guy with a scientific calculator." Like, I often describe myself as a "music geek". Really, I'm an entertainment geek of all stripes (music, movies, fiction, comics), and as such, I like to surround myself with the objects I enjoy. Hence the many many shelves of things lining my nest.

Posted by: Francis at April 26, 2005 07:00 PM

what about the label PARENTAL ADVISORY. EXPLICIT CONTENT? Don't you think that the label also ruins the art? Too many warning and label on the cover sleeve now. And I prefer they put the lyrics there than the credits of who do what in the song.

Posted by: barkah at April 27, 2005 02:00 AM

Oh, I totally agree -- if they're going to add warnings about language, they ought to put them on the outside of the case, where they can be peeled off. As mentioned in this earlier blog entry, I wish they would get rid of the parental advisory sticker and start using stickers to warn me when I might accidentally be purchasing an expurgated version of a CD that would normally have cussing on it.

Posted by: Francis at April 27, 2005 02:37 AM

Reason #233 to get your music with an eye patch
and rubber sword. Idiots. Justifying their lack
of productivity. RIAA clowns are less productive
than lawyers.

Posted by: aws3100 at April 27, 2005 04:25 AM

Well, that depends how you measure productivity. They're certainly better at making replicas of the FBI seal out of balloons.

Posted by: Francis at April 27, 2005 08:28 AM

I hate that stuff.

I bought a cd that was copy protected so I couldnt play it on my PC. It then installed (without asking) its own software which allowed me to play the cd back at 64kb mp3 quality.

THATS how you make me stop buying cds.

Posted by: Rob Mortimer at April 27, 2005 06:18 PM

According to Downhill Battle (http://downhillbattle.org/), that hypothetical young musician would be better off telling the major label to take a hike. Given the numerous stories of bands getting utterly screwed financially in their contracts with major labels, I'm skeptical that any unknown musician could even get a "lucrative" contract with a major.

Posted by: Lexica at April 27, 2005 06:51 PM

This seach engine allows you to check if an artist or album is affiliated with the RIAA. http://www.magnetbox.com/riaa/search.asp

Knowledge is power. Use it or lose it.

Posted by: Zelda at April 28, 2005 01:26 AM

This whole ordeal sparks an obvious question.
Shouldn't one be rewarded for buying the CD in the first place? Obviously we haven't committed an act of piracy by actually purchasing the official disc rather than downloading it. You obviously did the right thing buy paying for the music. In Australia, we get warnings on our discs by Sony. They warn that the disc is "copy protected". This essentially means the disc has been made so you cannot directly copy the disc onto another (which is irrelevent to file sharing as it is possible to copy the tracks onto the drive as an mp3 and away you go on your p2p adventures). The Australian warning is much less obtrusive than the FBI warnings the USA get. It's a small white logo on the bottom right of the actual plastic covering (not the artwork) and another barely visible logo on the edge of the disc itself. This is an attempt by Sony to prevent pirated CD-R copies from being sold but it in no way stops people from sharing mp3 versions of the track online. And just for the record, artists make little of their income from actual record sales. Profit from record sales largely benefits the record label, hence why they are so incredibly worried about piracy. It isn't stealing music, it's slightly reducing the income of some big-wig CEO at EMI.

Posted by: Eva at April 28, 2005 03:50 AM

It looks quite like kind of negative apotheosis of postmodernity: the secondarity of the financial aspect absorbs its contents and turns to its primarity [like sign turning to be the subject instead of just significating that subject].

The contents doesn't play any role anymore, but only the sales ["sales sales"].

RIAA got astray in the maze of the self-profit oxymoron and harms its own profitability with its own stupidity like deter the consumers from the products with such "warnings" like above.

This IS the first step to collaps the whole system of RIAA. The next steps follow...

Posted by: vladix at April 28, 2005 10:51 AM

I wouldn't blame the artist for giving into the company in this case. KC's are a small band with relative sucess even here in the UK, to see them on Letterman the other night was amazing.

It's hard enough for British bands to sell records in the US and if a label comes-a-knocking most british indie bands would sign without a second thought.

Great album though isn't it?

Posted by: Merk at April 28, 2005 07:48 PM

I check ot music that I like on the net first and then if I like it I'll buy the CD this also goes for DVD's

Posted by: Bokal at April 29, 2005 09:14 AM

Thanks to the magic of cut’n’paste, here’s something I wrote on my own site about the same topic from an Australian perspective. Thought it was worth repeating…

I was in a music store the other day looking at CDs, and I noticed that a lot of the newer CDs had a standard anti-piracy blurb on them, with a Dummy’s Guide To Copyright summary and a list of reasons why copying CDs is bad, concluding with the fact that you’re depriving the performer of income. That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, the CD I was looking at was a Sid Vicious solo compilation. Can’t say I’d feel too guilty about ripping off a dead junkie murderer. (Forcing someone to pay full price for Sid Vicious solo songs is the real crime, in my opinion.)

Posted by: Owen at May 3, 2005 07:46 PM

Gah, the labels are getting out of hand. Like the one on a packet of peanuts I had that said 'Warning: may contain nuts'. I should damn well hope so!

Posted by: Phyrbyrd at May 4, 2005 08:26 PM

I think that this piracy shit is getting way out of hand myself. I think it is fucking stupid that they put that damn warning on the cd. I bought a cd the other day and the whole top quarter was nothing but that fucking warning!

I think that if people stops buying cds for a few months, that musicians will lose money (a bad thing) but they will pressure the RIAA/FBI Assholes fuckers, they just may stop putting the label on the cd art!


Sorry I must stay anonymous, and my website also!

You may also talk about this on my friends forum! go here Piracy Forum

Posted by: SomeOne at May 18, 2005 02:07 PM

yaaaa.........this whole act has disabled me from putting my rightfully purchased music onto my ipod.........can someone please help me????!!!!!

Posted by: andrew at July 25, 2005 10:58 PM

i just got 2 say thats the funniest thing iv red in ages bt its so true they fuck up the covers

fuck moanin tho i dnt bother byin it no more just download

Posted by: kimbers at August 15, 2005 09:14 PM

make analogue copies and burn them ...
on a media-type you can design ... no need for the

the artists can do something against the rubbish signs on sleeves and covers...

Posted by: henny at August 6, 2006 05:03 PM

in my opinion, downloading a cd/dvd/whatever first is like a test drive... is a test drive punishable too? i dont think so... fuck tha RIAA...

greetz from good-ol-germany

Posted by: master m at May 23, 2007 01:33 PM


stop paying for the music price will drop, bad, undedicated artits will stop producing garbage music.

Posted by: Ken at June 5, 2009 04:12 AM

Take that CD back!

It was a well design CD and now look at it! If i was the graphic designer on that album i would be pissed and try to sue them over that!!

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