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Britney Fights Downloads

Eve, Missy Elliott, DMX side with RIAA in new TV ads

September 27, 2002 12:00 AM ET

The major record labels are enlisting an elite force in their battle against digital downloading: the artists. The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group that represents the labels, has produced TV ads in which top artists including Britney Spears, Nelly, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Eve, DMX and Dirty Vegas ask their fans to stop downloading music for free. The ads begin running in late September on MTV, BET and VH1.

"Once people see these spots, they're going to think twice about buying pirated music," says Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, president of the Hip-hop Summit Action Network, which has joined the campaign. Of course, pleas from millionaires asking fans to spend eighteen dollars for CDs available online for free could fall on deaf ears.

Spears says she was happy to join the campaign. "When people go on their computer and take your song," she says, "it's the same thing as going into a freakin' store and taking your CD."

In his ad, DMX also equates downloading music to theft: "Some eighteen-year-old kid comes along with a computer and an idea and tries to take from me? Straight up and down, it's stealing."

David Benjamin, who heads Universal's anti-piracy division, helped coordinate the project, and Jeb Brien, a TV veteran (Sessions on West 54th Street) produced the spots. They approached artists at magazine photo shoots and at other scheduled appearances. One artist who refused was Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba. "I don't care how anybody gets my record," he says. "If they can't afford it, they can get it for free. That's probably an unpopular way to look at it if you work for a label, but I don't work for a label."

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

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