is a Bootleg
By CD Pinkerton -from bobsboots.com
Here are the proper definitions of the terms according to American Heritage
Copy: a reproduction of the original
Pirate: the use of stolen intellectual property of another
Counterfeit: an inferior duplication made to defraud
Bootleg: Product produced without permission
Confused? Good! Forget all that. Here are the definitions as they are used by insiders. ...
Once you become the legal user of copyrighted material, the material is yours
to use and enjoy within the guidelines of the copyright. The guidelines of the
copyright however, are extremely restrictive. It is generally accepted, though,
that the user will be allowed to make one copy or backup solely for her/his own
use. There is never permission to make more than one copy. There is never
permission to give, sale, or share this backup copy with another. This one (and
only one) piece made for individual use is what industry insiders call a
If you choose to make more than one copy of copyrighted material you have
moved to this level. You have violated the copyright, and therefore, the law.
Whether you are making one or two copies to give to friends, or 50
copies to sell at the flea market , it is illegal. When you make unauthorized
copies of copyrighted material for any reason whatsoever, you are in violation
of the law. These illegal copies are what industry insiders refer to as pirates
or pirate copies. With the advent of the recordable CD,
Pirates are soon going to be the record label nemesis. In 1996
pirate music CDs were virtually unknown. Today there are
millions worldwide. As they can now be made by anyone with a few hundred dollars
investment, they are going to quickly overtake the counterfeit as the public
enemy No.1 for the major labels.
This is by far the most damaging (at the time of this writing) and illegal
transgression of our discourse. While most of us would have to admit to at some
point, knowingly or unknowingly, producing a pirated copy ... no one has ever
accidentally made a counterfeit. When you hear the term 'counterfeit money' you
automatically know that we are talking about something so illegal as to warrant
prison time for those who perpetrate the crime. It is no less an illegal
activity to counterfeit copyrighted material such as a data or music CD
or tape. As with counterfeit money, the term counterfeit refers to the exact
duplication of an item. Exact down to the cover artwork, song titles printed on
the cassette, etc. etc. As you can see, these duplicates aren't made by
accident. They are made to deceive the public into thinking they are buying an
original product when they are not. Multiple millions upon millions of
dollars have been lost due to these practices. Everybody loses except for the
individual thieves who pocket all of the profits. Going backwards up the chain,
first of all the consumer loses by being duped into purchasing an inferior
product that many times will tear up in a short amount of time or worse yet,
cause damage to their equipment. The legitimate retailer loses. Because they
can't compete with the prices of the illegal merchandise, they lose the sell.
Upline the jobbers, wholesalers, reps., etc. all lose the ability to make their
honest living. Now we get to the record label who sometimes has millions of
dollars invested in a particular project that can't recoup all of the money due
to the lost sales. And finally to the artist, who not only loses monetarily on
this project; but can sometimes suffer a worse fate. A friend of mine was
dropped by his record label partly because of poor (if you can call a quarter
million pieces poor) sales of the last album he did for them. Yet, I have seen
counterfeit after counterfeit of his albums being sold at all the local flea
markets. Now I realize that a thousand or so pieces sold from six or eighth
establishments is not going to bring down a record label. But, if it happens
here, it's happening other places. It doesn't take too many thousands of lost
sales to eventually add up to a problem! These illegal duplications are what the
industry insiders call counterfeits.
Now we get to the crux of the discussion. Everything that you have read so far is what a bootleg is not. Now, for what a bootleg is. To get down to its legal definition ... the affixing of intellectual property of an individual to a medium for the intent to distribute said medium without owner's consent. ... OK, that's too much legalese... still, that sounds like it would be something illegal!!!!! Well, most places it is. (So is not wearing your seat belt.) well, sometimes the rules get broken. This section is not meant to romanticize the obviously illegal practice of intellectual property theft, rather to put it into perspective. First of all... exactly what is intellectual property?, how does the copyright work?, what part is illegal?, ...
OK, hold your horses. I know you want all the answers quick, but I'm a slow typist. You're just going to have to give me some time here. First of all, the copyright. Copyrights work in many ways on many different levels. The one that concerns us is the copyright of intellectual property. The intellectual property for the purpose of our discussion is a song. Once a song is completed it is automatically copyrighted (contrary to popular belief). The fact that the writer put it down to paper or tape gives him/her an immediate copyright. Most people choose to register their song with the Copyright Office. As confusing as it may sound, that registration process is not the copyright. Merely the registration of something that is already automatically copyrighted. In case there are ever legal questions, this registration will hold up in court as concrete evidence. The copyright also gives the owner the right to profit from any commercial use of the song.
With that out of the way, let's talk about bootlegging. A bootleg album, cassette, or CD is one that has been created completely from material (songs, spoken word, etc.) that is not commercially available. The material might be from an interview, radio broadcast, recording from a live concert, studio outtake tapes etc. etc. The bootlegger will take this material and affix it to a record album to be distributed in very small quantities. Sometimes as many as a thousand ... sometimes as few as a hundred or less. Past releases have sometimes been of very dismal quality. No matter. The releases are not going to be mass marketed ... they're only intended for a handful of collectors worldwide. Collectors who are usually so dedicated to the artist they collect that they will surely own every commercially available piece offered by the artist. As in the more recent example of Bob Dylan's Royal Albert Hall concert, or a past example of the Basement Tapes, if a bootleg item is ever released officially, the bootleg collector will be the first person in line to pay money for the released version. For the most part, we are talking about recordings that would never see the light of day any other way. The major Labels could never afford to release all of this material that would only interest a handful of fanatical fans worldwide. The only alternative to bootlegs is for the performances to be forever lost. History will decry such an austere solution. Looking back to the roots of blues, jazz, country, and rock music; there are multiple thousands of lost performances and artists that we will never hear. We are less of a civilization for the loss. Thank God for the handful of bootleggers that did preserve the recordings that we now view as true treasures of the history of music, and therefore, the history of mankind.
Yes, there are copyright laws in effect to protect the owner against loss of income. Yes, creating a bootleg album violates those laws and could amount to several hundred dollars lost revenue for the artist. Yes, you should always wear your seat belt.
In the few years since the original creation of this writing, there have been massive changes in the world. Some of those changes have seen the super highway evolve into the internet, and the internet grow from a curiosity into a way of life. In the even fewer years that this page has been available online, the creation of MP3 and CDR have forever changed the medium of choice of those who collect and trade music recordings. These two mediums have created a pirate music explosion that the lowly cassette tape could have never imagined. There have been lawsuits won and lost, and discussions and heated debates over the legalities and morality of buying, selling, and trading recorded music. I would like to take this opportunity to interject my personal viewpoint on the subject. The unique viewpoint of both a theologian and philosopher, of a musician, writer, union advocate, music collector, and music retailer. First and foremost, it is my strongest belief that a worker is worthy of his hire. Just as one draws a paycheck for a day's labor, there are those whose labor consist of creating and distributing recorded music. It runs counter to everything that I hold dear to cheat the worker. The laborer is cheated if and when she creates an item to sell, (such as a CD) and that item is then copied and given or sold without reimbursement to the creator. That is exactly what happens when music is downloaded for free, and/or CDR copies are made from a store bought CD. To those that claim that music "belongs to the people, and should be free to all".. I say "As long as you have never drawn a paycheck for your labor, I can understand your viewpoint." Now for bootlegs... This same argument does not hold true for a commercial bootleg. Why? Because the manufacturer of the bootleg was never hired in the first place. One could not enter a property without invitation, mow the lawn; trim the hedges, weed the garden... and then contact the customer to demand payment; because one would be required to be hired in the first place. However, this scenario has happened before, and the worker paid. Only because the customer chose to pay. So it is with the creation of bootlegs. It is not within the right of the manufacturer to create them in the first place. Once they are created, however, there are those who choose to pay for them. There are also those who choose to copy, and distribute them freely. Neither choice, in my opinion, should be viewed as illegal or immoral. To those who want to own the silver CD as a collectible item.. buy them. To those who would rather (or can only afford to) trade a CDR copy... trade them. To those who say the original artist should get a portion of the proceeds of the sell of a boot... I have no problem with that. The one who would take issue would be the record label to which the artist is under contract. In practical terms, however, the percentage loss of an artist and label from the distribution of a boot title is measured in the hundreds (not thousands) of dollars. It is easier, more economical, and far better for public relations, to turn a blind eye to the bootleggers. After all, Some of these bootleggers... they make pretty good stuff! As for what is a boot and what isn't... which is fair game to copy and which is not... here is a good rule of thumb:Go to any record store at your local mall and ask if a title can be ordered. Check Amazon.com, and Barnes and Nobel. For a small Indie release, contact the artist themselves. If, and only if, you find that the title is offered for sell in none of these places, on any format medium.... Then copy away. If you find the title is offered for sell in any one of these establishments, and you choose to copy it anyway... don't dare complain when your employer cheats you out of your final paycheck.
-C D Pinkerton-
© 1997 CD Pinkerton
© 1998-2002 CD Pinkerton Bobsboots.com