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High school could feel RIAA wrath

The local Chippewa Falls High School could become another RIAA target for alleged copyright violations.

Chippewa Falls is a lovely town in Wisconsin and until last Saturday, one of its proudest boasts was: Time magazine includes it among the Top Ten Small Towns in America.

Now it has another distinction - and it's something it could do without.

The local Chippewa Falls High School could become another RIAA target for alleged copyright violations.

As one of the featured events during its prom night, the school prom committee distributed 500 music CDs intended as "a piece of unique memorabilia," says the Chippewa Herald here.

"The husband of a school secretary, a high school counselor, and members of the junior class copied three songs onto CDs using computer equipment off school district premises."

The songs were The Bangles' 'Walk Like an Egyptian, Sara Evans' 'Born to Fly' and '100 Years' by Five for Fighting.

The prom committee bought the custom CD cases for $3.69 each, paid for with proceeds of junior class fundraisers and other proms.

However, the Herald's Jeff Hage says Eugene Quinn, a patent attorney and a law professor at Syracuse University, states, "Unless permission was granted by the copyright holder, they violated federal copyright law."

[Syracuse university students are angry over what they see as their university's cooperation with the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), one of the enforcement agencies owned and operated by the Big Five - Ed]

"The prom committee bought the CD cases from a prom catalog and didn't give burning the CDs a second thought," the school district's business manager Chad Trowbridge says in the report.

And, "If you go out and buy a CD yourself and burn a copy for your own use, you're completely fine," Quinn said. "You have a right to make a copy - but only a personal right."

Has Quinn - a professor of law - been following the 321 Studios case, one wonders?

321 owner Bob Moore is in a running fight with Hollywood (of which the music industry is but a component). He was forced to stop selling software that allowed 321 customers to make backup copies of DVD movies they own.

In the meanwhile, the problem comes when the CDs are distributed, Quinn is quoted as saying.

"This might be big enough for the RIAA to follow up on," he says in the Herald report. "What the recording industry does is pick someone who has a clear infraction and make an example of them."

The bottom line, Quinn says, is that burning the CDs wasn't unlike stealing from the recording artists, who count on the royalties from music sales.

"Burning 500 CDs could get the recording industry's attention," Quinn said. "A handful doesn't. Hundreds do."