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AT&T censors Pearl Jam's anti-Bush lyrics

By Pearl Jam fans and Internet watchdogs were up in arms Thursday after it was revealed that AT&T Inc. censored portions of the rock band’s live concert cybercast on Sunday. While performing “Daughter” during the annual Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, the band segued into a portion of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” during which frontman Eddie Vedder sang, “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush, find yourself another home.” Those lyrics were missing from the broadcast.

Vedder also railed against oil giant BP during the set, and later, brought a disabled Iraq War veteran onstage to call for an end to the conflict. Neither of these segments were edited.

In a statement, AT&T attributed the bleeping to “a mistake by a Webcast vendor” that was “contrary to our policy. We have policies in place with respect to editing excessive profanity, but AT&T does not censor performances. We very much regret that this happened in the first place.”

The company also said it was “working with the band to post the song in its entirety,” a sentiment echoed by Pearl Jam on its official Web site (http://www.pearljam.com). “In the future, we will work even harder to ensure that our live broadcasts or webcasts are free from arbitrary edits,” read a statement on PearlJam.com.

The incident has generated hundreds of posts on the band’s Web forum as well as a response from the Future of Music Coalition, a strong advocate for “net neutrality” laws that ensure free speech online.

“This event shows that companies like AT&T will risk the appearance of censorship by turning off the sound on a webcast that’s being viewed by thousands of people, just because it works counter to their financial interests,” said FOMC executive director Jenny Toomey. “What do you think they will do to protect their financial interests on the web when no one is looking?”

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