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RIAA secret meeting memo

Turns out to have been all made up

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The trouble with the Internet is that it's just too darn fast. Publish a story and it's all around the world before you've caught your breath. Or had a chance to change what you'd incautiously posted prematurely. Which is certainly the case with Monday's 'Music biz wants tougher DMCA, CPRM 2 to protect copyright' story.

We received an email from an alleged Recording Industry Association of America staffer claiming that RIAA chief Hilary Rosen has hosted a secret gathering of music and technology CEOs to discuss ways they could come together to eliminate the illegal duplication and distribution of copyright material over the Internet.

Bowled over by authentic-sounding soundbites from Rosen and co., we wrote it up and posted the story. Alarm bells had rung over the supplied list of attendees, but the story felt too right to be bothered by such caveats.

Subsequent consideration of the email and its contents made us realise we should have been more cautious. Take the presence of one Steve Heckler, allegedly from Sony Music Entertainment. Heckler appeared on the scene last summer after making some dogmatic anti-Napster comments, but he was then with Sony Pictures Entertainment, not Sony Music Entertainment, a fact confirmed by the company itself. Indeed Sony Music tells us Heckler left Sony Pictures last January.

And one or two of the other alleged attendees aren't with their respective companies or organisations any longer, which would have been revealed with a simple check had we made one (or even just looked back at stories we'd written in the past). It's a fair cop, guv - we cocked up here, and we throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

All this clearly casts much doubt on the email's other contents and the comments attributed to Rosen. They certainly sound genuine and reflect broad policies the RIAA has espoused in the past. But like the list of attendees, our subsequent research suggests that the quotes are likely to have been cobbled together from comments made at various points by Rosen over the last year. Others may have been made up.

The same applies to the comments attributed to the principals of other companies.

Was there a meeting in Washington last week? The RIAA denies it ever took place - though it would hardly confirm the existence of a meeting intended to be 'secret' - and says the quotations are false.

Without a consistent, complete record of everything all the parties have said, that's hard to gainsay. At best, we can say, the comment were all made long ago and were brought together, out of context, by our correspondent. Ever been had? We now think we were.

Are apologies in order? Yes they are.

So apologies to all concerned. And that includes our readers. ®

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