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MCA Uncovers Evidence of Counterfeit Tape Operation

March 15, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Millions of counterfeit tape cassettes of popular performers such as Stevie Wonder and Olivia Newton-John are being offered to retailers at a discount, according to a major record company that has given evidence of the operation to the FBI.

Executives of MCA Inc. of Los Angeles on Thursday gave suspected counterfeit tapes purchased at retail record stores to the FBI in Newark, N.J., where the charges are being investigated, said FBI Agent Larry Playford.

″We have reason to believe that this organization is counterfeiting most of our big mid-line titles ... with losses (of potential revenue) in the millions of dollars,″ MCA Records President Irving Azoff told the Los Angeles Times in a report published today.

Azoff said the number of counterfeit tapes could be in the millions.

Counterfeit tapes deprive record producers of income from cassette sales.

Distributors and retail stores may be selling counterfeits unwittingly, the newspaper reported. The suspected counterfeit cassettes are being offered to distributors and record chains under the guise of an MCA sale of nearly 5 million discontinued records, the report said.

Among the artists believed to be copied illegally are Neil Diamond, Elton John, the Who, Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffet and Diana Ross.

The counterfeiting operation apparently has targeted older releases by artists on the MCA and Motown record labels rather than current hit albums, MCA officials said.

MCA executives said many suspected counterfeits are easily identifiable because of misspellings, incorrect labeling and poorly reproduced artwork. The recording quality also is ″amazingly bad, not even close to the real thing,″ said Jeff Adamoff, MCA Records’ director of creative services.

″In all my years in the music business, I’ve never seen more blatantly obvious counterfeit product, and I’m shocked to find it in so many (record retailers) in such large numbers,″ Azoff said.

An MCA internal audit manager bought the suspected counterfeit tapes in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Los Angeles at well-known outlets such as King Karol and Tower Records, the newspaper said.

″It’s really frightening that something like this could happen,″ Tower Records owner Russ Solomon said. He added that he intends to find out where the suspected counterfeits came from and ″pull them out of stock instantly″

Ben Karol, owner of King Karol, said his company was not aware of the suspected counterfeits.

″You can’t be sure of anything in this business,″ Karol said. ″The record companies have so many deals with so many people that you couldn’t go to one store in America and not find some questionable product, and only one time out of 10 does it turn out to be anything really illegal.″

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