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GETTING UP TO SPEED
Here’s a Quick Recap of the News You Missed While on Vacation
The world doesn’t stop just because everyone in the biz takes two weeks off, and you might have missed some news. But don’t worry, everybody in your office is out of the loop too. Here’s a handy roundup to make your knowledge base the envy of co-workers and illiterates.

Album sales dropped less than 4% last year. That’s compared to a decline of 11% in 2002; sales are down around 16% since 2000. The really good news is that the fourth quarter of 2003 was better than Q4 2002, so things may be looking up.

Universal Music Group is reportedly trying to start its own TV music channel. The UMG channel would be a commercial-free pay channel and is in talks with DirecTV, according to published reports. The network would show uncut videos and original programming, and is said to be called 1 AM, in reference to the First Amendment. Because it would be a pay channel, the channel could air uncensored lyrics and unblurred versions of videos that you can sometimes see late night on BET. UMG is pitching it as a joint venture with the Endeavor agency and Eminem’s Shady Records.

The Justice Department concluded a 2 1/2 year antitrust investigation into labels’ online joint ventures. The probe found no evidence the Big 5 didn’t do anything wrong when the formed Musicnet and Pressplay back in 2001.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the RIAA in its case against Verizon. The Appeals Court said that the RIAA couldn’t use subpoenas to force Internet Service Providers to hand over the names of people using file-swapping services. The RIAA has said that it will continue suing people and will have to use a more involved legal process to uncover people’s identities.

A little gossip too. People around the water cooler will no doubt be talking about Britney Spears’ wedding to childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander, which is reportedly going to be annulled today, but the hot talk may be over the arrest of Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson on New Year’s Eve in Naples, FL. Police used a stun gun on Lifeson in subduing him; he reportedly spit blood at them after a scuffle. Leaving jail after a two-day stint, Lifeson told the media that he was arrested for no reason and that he and his family were “just having dinner.”

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