Controversial soundtrack taken off Columbine videotapes

GOLDEN, Colo. - The pop music soundtrack accompanying newly released videotapes of the Columbine massacre's aftermath will be removed in new copies of the tapes, authorities said Friday.

Artists whose melancholy music was used to accompany footage of the blood-soaked Columbine library threatened legal action if the songs were not removed. The tapes were given to victims' families on a judge's order and sold to the public for $25 this week.

''Videotapes with the soundtrack included were released because I did not want to tamper with the court order in any way,'' said Jefferson County Attorney Frank Hutfless, who was widely criticized for making the tapes available to the public.

More than 100 copies of the videotape with the soundtrack were sold Wednesday and Thursday. Hutfless encouraged anyone who had those copies of the tapes to exchange them for soundless versions.

''I feel that we would have a very strong case if we were forced to go to court to defend alleged copyright violations. However, to avoid any additional legal wrangling, we will remove the soundtracks,'' he said.

The nearly three-hour tape combines footage shot by a Littleton firefighter inside the school with TV news footage taken outside. The songs - by Sarah McLachlan and Cheryl Wheeler and a remembrance by two Columbine students - were added when the tape was produced by a Littleton Fire Department employee as a training video.

McLachlan's U.S. record label, Arista, said the videotapes were a clear copyright infringement because neither the singer nor Arista had granted permission to use her song ''I Will Remember You.''

McLachlan said adding music to the images at Columbine was ''sick.'' But her manager, Terry McBride, said a recall of the videotapes probably wouldn't be worthwhile.

''I very much doubt that anyone is going to give them back,'' McBride said. ''We didn't see any malice in this situation. Someone made an error and they are correcting it.''

Also on the tape was ''Friend of Mine (Columbine),'' written by brothers Stephen and Jonathan Cohen, who survived the shootings.

''We were completely blindsided by this,'' said Jason Hickman, who produced the song. The Cohens ''were appalled. Their mother was totally distraught.''

A publicist with Wheeler's current record company, Rounder Records, said the artist was not as concerned with the copyright infringement question as she was in trying to stop the dissemination of the tapes.

''She wanted to help get the tape stopped from being sold,'' said publicist Kerry Murphy. ''I'm sure she's pretty disappointed.''

The tapes were given Tuesday to victims' families who told a judge they needed them for civil lawsuits against the sheriff's office. Several families have filed suit over officers' handling of the April 20, 1999, attack, in which two students killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher before killing themselves.


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