Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Creating problems where there were once none

I'm sure this will make its way to the latest "Governments Gone Wild" DVD (just don't try to sell your used copy later).
Record shops: Used CDs? Ihre papieren, bitte!

There are a few things lawmakers have decided really ought to be handled with the "care and oversight" that only the government can provide: e.g., tax collection, radioactive materials, biohazards, guns, and CDs. CDs? No, I'm not talking about financial Certificates of Deposit, though that might make more sense. I'm talking about Compact Discs.
New "pawn shop" laws are springing up across the United States that will make selling your used CDs at the local record shop something akin to getting arrested. No, you won't spend any time in jail, but you'll certainly feel like a criminal once the local record shop makes copies of all of your identifying information and even collects your fingerprints. Such is the state of affairs in Florida, which now has the dubious distinction of being so anal about the sale of used music CDs that record shops there are starting to get out of the business of dealing with used content because they don't want to pay a $10,000 bond for the "right" to treat their customers like criminals.
The legislation is supposed to stop the sale of counterfeit and/or stolen music CDs, despite the fact that there has been no proof that this is a particularly pressing problem for record shops in general. Yet John Mitchell, outside counsel for the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, told Billboard that this is part of "some sort of a new trend among states to support second-hand-goods legislation." And he expects it to grow.
In Florida, Utah, and soon in Rhode Island and Wisconsin, selling your used CDs to the local record joint will be more scrutinized than then getting a driver's license in those states. For retailers in Florida, for instance, there's a "waiting period" statue that prohibits them from selling used CDs that they've acquired until 30 days have passed. Furthermore, the Florida law disallows stores from providing anything but store credit for used CDs. It looks like college students will need to stick to blood plasma donations for beer money.
Prediction: recorded music merchants in these states will end up even more financially strapped than they were already. Expect indie merchants to be hurt the worst. Expect that more of the used CD business will go to Ebay, and that even more used content will be trafficked on peer-to-peer networks as customers get disgusted with this extra layer of government restrictions.
If you thought CD sales were already bad...

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