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S.C. attorney general won't let libraries have 'offensive' CDs

By The Associated Press
06.20.04

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Thousands of free music CDs from a nationwide price-fixing settlement are headed to South Carolina libraries, but state Attorney General Henry McMaster says a few artists won't make it to the shelves.

Rapper Eminem and actors Cheech and Chong, known for their dope-smoking comedy bits, are among artists removed from the distribution list because of offensive material, McMaster's spokesman Trey Walker said last week.

"There was not a requirement to vet the titles, but we took it upon ourselves," Walker said on June 15. "Other states did that as well."

Walker said members of McMaster's staff went through the list of artists and recommended ones to eliminate.

"Clearly, some things are not appropriate for minors to have access to," he said.

Denyse Williams, executive director of the South Carolina office of the American Civil Liberties Union, thinks McMaster's action violates the law.

"When the chief law enforcement officer decides to make a wholesale decision, it's prior restraint," she said.

Walker said the attorney general had the right to make such decisions under the terms of the settlement.

The multistate lawsuit against the recording industry alleged record companies conspired to illegally raise the prices of prerecorded music products by implementing Minimum Advertised Price policies, which was in violation of state and federal laws.

Each of the more than 3 million individuals who registered a claim in the lawsuit — including 36,525 South Carolinians — received a $13.76 settlement check.

The record industry also will distribute about $75 million in CDs to states.

From classical to hip-hop and bluegrass to electronica, the music titles South Carolina libraries expect to get are diverse. The South Carolina State Library will distribute the CDs to 34 library systems across the state by the first week of July.

Distribution is based on population.

The selection process doesn't bother Kershaw County Library Director Penny Harvey.

"We'll go from nothing to something," Harvey said. "We're looking forward to making it available to the public and encouraging them to use it, and hopefully it will be like gangbusters."


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