Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which promotes itself as a seller of clean music, deceived customers by stocking compact discs by the rock group Evanescence that contain the f-word, a lawsuit claims.
The hit group’s latest CD/DVD, “Anywhere But Home” (Wind-Up), don’t carry parental advisory labels alerting potential buyers to the obscenity. If they did, Wal-Mart wouldn’t carry them, according to the retailer’s policy.
But the lawsuit claims Wal-Mart knew about the explicit lyrics in the song, “Thoughtless,” because it censored the word in a free sample available on its Web site and in its stores.
The complaint, filed Thursday in Washington County (Md.) Circuit Court, seeks an order requiring Wal-Mart to either censor or remove the music from its Maryland stores. It also seeks damages of up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music at Wal-Marts in Maryland.
“I don’t want any other families to get this, expecting it to be clean. It needs to be removed from the shelves to prevent other children from hearing it,” said plaintiff Trevin Skeens of Brownsville.
Skeens said he and his wife, Melanie, let their daughter buy the music for her 13th birthday and were shocked when they played it in their car while driving home.
Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Ark., has no immediate plans to pull the CDs from its shelves, spokesperson Guy Whitcomb told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. He said the company will investigate the allegations. No hearing dates have been set.
“While Wal-Mart sets high standards, it would not be possible to eliminate every image, word or topic that an individual might find objectionable,” Whitcomb told the newspaper.
He said the song sample online was censored by Walmart.com, a separate division of Wal-Mart.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Wind-Up Records and distributor BMG Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, of New York. Sony BMG declined to comment on the lawsuit. Wind-Up didn’t return calls.
The Skeens’ lawyer, Jon D. Pels of Bethesda, said he aims to “take this case national, even if that means going state by state.” He dismissed Whitcomb’s suggestion that Wal-Mart stores didn’t know about the censored version of the song. “They are a multimillion-dollar corporation and they certainly can communicate among their various entities,” he said.
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