Earlier this week a handful of unconfirmed stories began swirling around the web implicating that the good old buddies at the RIAA are not only using scare tactics to force settlements out of file-sharers, but they may also be intimidating hardware manufacturers into crippling their hardware in an attempt to discourage piracy.

Specifically Dell and a number of computer manufacturers using SigmaTel chips have supposedly bowed to RIAA pressure and disabled stereo recording support, with an official fix that restores such feature being available for just $99. While one could expect almost anything from the RIAA in its quest to combat piracy, I do believe (and hope) these reports are just plain paranoid. Perhaps a more logical explanation would be that many manufacturers are using similar chipsets and there is a driver problem for one of the chips. I wonder, though, why is Dell charging for the fix.