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Location: Hamilton Square, New Jersey, United States

Tax guy, host & producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, former co-host of the Wall Street Journal E-Report

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

RIAA nails the Columbus Farmers Market

Here's a major local story which made the AP wire. Apparently, the Columbus Farmers Market...a popular location for many of us in central NJ...has been found liable for the sales of pirated music on their grounds. In other words, the RIAA just dropped a legal WMD on Burlington County.

I guess this doesn't really shock me...things like this have been going on for years. While I haven't frequented "Columbus" (as it's known to the locals, as nobody really goes to Columbus for anything else) much in the last decade, I can only assume that piracy has run rampant there since the popularity of MP3 files (in fact, I just now discovered that the place has been raided by police at least twice since 2000 for illegal music CDs). Much like "Englishtown" (the other local flea market known simply by the otherwise mostly nondescript town it resides in), I recall Columbus being the home of cheap pornos on VHS, knock-off "Sorny" stereos and cheapo rock t-shirts. The concept of someone trying to turn a quick, illegal buck at one of these places doesn't surprise me.

The most egregious offense I've ever seen was at a fair in Levittown, PA, where someone set up a table selling pirated movies. And we're not talking downloaded video here, we're talking good old fashioned guy-in-a-trenchcoat-with-a-camcorder videos of movies that just made it into the theater. When I asked the person I was with about this she said, "yeah, they're here every year". The worse part about this? This was a CHURCH fair.

So now I have to wonder about the future of the Columbus Farmers Market. According to the article they were found liable of damages that could range from $500,000 to $125 million. As big as Columbus is, I can't imagine them being able to pay out that kind of money. Columbus has been around for as far as I can remember but it wouldn't surprise me if this forced them out of business.

The person hardest hit by that scenario would be my father who searches these places endlessly for bargains. Hell, he seems to show up with a new "dollar" toy for Matt every other week. His house is 60% populated by singing, anthropomorphic novelty toys that make you want to chuck them out the window after three minutes. The worst part is that he doesn't buy just one, he buys *several* of them with the intent of giving them out to friends and relatives (wanna guess who the prime recipient is?) Well, if Columbus folds, at least he'll still have Englishtown to fall back on...unless the RIAA has targeted them too.


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