SWAT Teams Enforcing Copyright

by on January 17, 2007 · 12 comments

Radley Balko, who has tirelessly publicized the problems created by the promiscuous use of SWAT teams, reports that federal police in Atlanta have used a SWAT team to help the recording industry enforce copyright law. Even worse, the target wasn’t even a commercial piracy operation:

Last night, a federal SWAT team assisted the RIAA in a raid on the studio of Atlanta musician DJ Drama.

This local news report says the locally famous mixtape DJ is under investigation for piracy. But Drama’s supporters say the DJ is a mix artist, not a bootlegger. They say news footage of the raid shows RIAA officials boxing up only recordable CDs filled with mixes, not bootlegs of retail CDs (the local news reporter seems to conflate the two as well).

Assuming for a moment that RIAA and federal officials do indeed know the difference between a mash-up DJ and a bootleg operation, and that they did find evidence of actual piracy in the bust, there’s still the problem of why RIAA officials were participating in a police action, and why a SWAT team was used to raid a professional studio under investigation for a nonviolent, white-collar crime.

Quite so. It’s not like this is a fly-by-night operation selling CDs out of the back of a truck. This is clearly not the sort of problem that justifies dramatic police raids. If the RIAA thinks DJ Drama’s activities violate copyright law, they have plenty of civil law remedies available that don’t involve Gestapo tactics.

Also, check out the gratuitous smearing of the two as drug dealers and gangsters. A police officer comments that “In this case, we didn’t find drugs and weapons, but it’s not uncommon for us to find other sorts of contraband when we execute a search warrant.”

If they didn’t find drugs or weapons, why did this factoid merit a mention in the story?

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