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CD settlement stuck in repeat mode at library

The 10 boxes containing 299 compact discs arrived at the Fargo Public Library late last week. The musical bounty, part of the $143 million settlement by the top five U.S.

CD settlement

The 10 boxes containing 299 compact discs arrived at the Fargo Public Library late last week.

The musical bounty, part of the $143 million settlement by the top five U.S. distributors of compact discs and three largest retailers, isn't as impressive as it may, pardon the pun, sound.

Inside were 10 copies of Nas' "Nastradamus."Eight copies of Entertainment Weekly's "Best of 1971."

Five copies of Whitney Houston belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner."

And four copies of Lenny Kravitz's "Mama Said."


"There's a variety of different things," says Fargo Public Library reference librarian Greg Gilstrap, the staffer charged with inventorying the CDs and comparing what is included with what the library already has in stock.

"Classical, rock, rap, a little country, R&B, jazz. Some are junky, but some are decent titles, in my opinion," Gilstrap says. "They're not bad."

As I wrote about in March, when I was among more than 12,500 North Dakotans to get a $13.86 check as part of this settlement, the aforementioned distributors and music retailers decided to pony up $143 million in cash and CDs to avoid a costly legal battle.

The companies basically fixed prices, setting a "minimum advertised price," which is in violation of state and federal laws.

Besides sending out refunds to people who stated they purchased a CD between Jan. 1, 1995, and Dec. 22, 2000, the settlement requires the companies give away more than $75.7 million worth of compact discs to places, such as public libraries and schools.

But now that the boxes are arriving, some are starting to wonder if the companies are living up to their end of the bargain or merely using it as a means to clean out their warehouses of unmovable product.

The Boston Globe reported that one library in a northwest suburb received 21 copies of an obscure Gregorian chant album.

Todd Sattler, assistant attorney general for North Dakota, says that in the first shipment of CDs there were reports of "high numbers" of duplications.


However, shipments sent to North Dakota institutions should have no more than 25 of any one CD.

"There has been an effort to make sure we are getting quality titles ... and avoid getting that bottom of the barrel stuff," Sattler says.

Being a jazz fan, Sattler says he was impressed that titles from John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington were among the almost 13,000 CDs sent to the state's 217 school districts, 11 public colleges and universities and 91 libraries.

"There is enough quality material that it makes me comfortable with what is being sent out," he says.

Locally, Gilstrap says, between 50 and 100 titles may find their way into the Fargo library's catalog. Considering that the library purchases CDs for between $6 and $13 at its library rate, the boon can be estimated to be worth between $600 and $1,300.

Plus, the duplicates will come in handy with a copy of the new CDs being sent down to the Southpointe branch.

The rest? They can be used for fund-raising purposes and will likely show up in this fall's Friends of the Library book sale. Proceeds go back to the library.

Gilstrap says library customers will start seeing the new CDs in the collection within a month or two, depending on when staff has time to catalogue them.


But does the Fargo Public Library, or any library, university or school, really need eight copies of Michael Bolton's "Timeless"? Does anyone, really?

Readers can reach Forum features editor Dean Rhodes at drhodes@forumcomm.com or by calling (701) 241-5524

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