Libraries land free CDs

August 15, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

TRI-STATE - When Barbara Gibney started opening boxes of free compact discs at the Washington County Free Library several days ago, she found 38 copies of the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing Handel's "Messiah."

In the coming days and weeks, Gibney, the library's head of collection development, can look forward to 27 copies of Handel's "Italian Canta," 23 discs of "Soundtrack for a Century," 21 copies of a tribute to Hank Williams and 20 copies of Lenny Kravitz's "Lenny."

Not all will go on the shelves and the library will have to buy plastic security cases for them - but the library's windfall of 1,323 CDs is appreciated nonetheless, she said.


Gibney and library workers nationwide are poking through curious treasure chests of free music because of an antitrust settlement.

Five compact disc distributors and three retail chains were accused of conspiring to illegally set price standards for CDs from 1995 to 2000, according to the Maryland attorney general's office.

"The illegal conspiracies allegedly grew out of the practice in the recorded music industry known as Minimum Advertised Price, or M.A.P., in which the distributors would pay for retailers' advertising in local media, provided the retailers did not advertise CDs at a sale price below a minimum established by the distributor," according to the attorney general's office. "The defendants deny the allegations in the suit."

Under the settlement reached two years ago, customers who overpaid for CDs are splitting $67.3 million, or $13.86 per person.

Also, 5.5 million CDs, worth $75.5 million, are being sent to schools, colleges, universities, public libraries and nonprofit organizations across the country.

That's why Gibney is sorting through Wyclef Jean, Yanni, George Strait, Lena Horne, Everclear, John Tesh, "New Millennium Hip-Hop Party" and more.

Washington County Public Schools received 554 CDs and Hagerstown Community College received 552.

Different methods

The three area states each approached the settlement differently.

Maryland divided its 104,000 CDs proportionally to each library's state and federal funding, said Gary Honick, a Maryland assistant attorney general in the antitrust division.

West Virginia gave about 100 CDs apiece to about 350 public schools and libraries, West Virginia Assistant Attorney General Doug Davis said.

Pennsylvania is letting the libraries shop for themselves.

Barbara Petito, a deputy press secretary in the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, said the state will set up a Web site listing 2,300 different CD titles.

Starting Sept. 8, library representatives can browse the selection. A week later, they'll make their picks.

The windfalls have boosted library CD collections and created new ones at libraries that had none.

Gibney said Washington County Free Library had 900 CDs among its branches and bookmobile before this month.

It's unknown how many new ones it will keep. It plans to hold onto some copies of Handel's "Messiah" and get rid of the rest, Gibney said.

Under the settlement, libraries may sell CDs they don't want and use the profits to buy other music.

'A pretty big favor'

Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library in West Virginia had fewer than 100 CDs - before it received 112 in the settlement, said Jane Levitan, a young adult librarian and spokeswoman for the library.

Levitan joked about the unusual titles. She was particularly amused at "Martha Stewart Living: Spooky Scary Sounds for Halloween."

Levitan quipped that the CD might play Stewart saying something like, "Look out! A federal agent!"

Stewart was sentenced in July to five months in prison. She previously was convicted of lying to the government about a stock sale.

Levitan said the CDs of John Adams' opera "Nixon in China" and "The Mystery of Santo Domingo De Silos-Gregorian Chant From Spain" were equally intriguing.

She was excited about other CDs, such as one of Billie Holiday and one of Christmas music, which she called "fabulously popular" in Berkeley County.

"I really think it's kind of nice that we have them," Levitan said.

Before receiving more than 100 music CDs recently, the Morgan County Public Library in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., had none, Director Larry Springer said.

"It's everything - rock and roll, country and western, opera, classical," he said.

The library doesn't have money to buy CDs, so "they did us a pretty big favor," he said.

Warning labels

Springer said the shipment included three questionable CDs.

One - "Renegades" by Rage Against the Machine - contains rough language and carries a parental advisory sticker.

He said he's heard questions about two others that don't have advisory labels - Big Pun's "Yeeeah Baby" and Eagle-Eye Cherry's "Desireless." He will have someone listen to the CDs before deciding whether to circulate them.

"I don't think that's censorship," he said. "That's just common sense."

The Herald-Mail Articles