Bootlegs, Morality and Legality

Deseree Stukes ([email protected])
Thu, 6 Aug 1998 10:03:32 -0400

Josh brought up an issue that has been addressed many times before on
Wire. Up to this point i have stayed out of the debate but now i just
want to give my *opinion*. By law, bootlegs and pirated material of an
artist's work are illegal. Therefore, if you buy, sell, or trade said
material you are committing a criminal act and violating copyright laws.
Period. It doesn't make a difference whether you get money for it or
not. It's still against the law.

Now individuals have justified trading and selling bootlegs by saying
certain members of U2 (Bono, Edge, and Adam) don't have a problem with
it as long as a profit is not made. Well, if they are so behind fans
and bootlegs, why do fans still have to find inventive ways to *sneak*
in cameras, video cams, and recording devices? Whereas, a group like
the Dave Matthews Band has taken a very definitive stance on fans being
able to record their concerts and providing no encumbrances to such
activities, *as long as they are not sold.* Here is the official DMB
policy on taping performances for trading only (source is the DMB
Mailing List Website):

DMB Official Taping Policy:
This is current as of 4/26/96 and will be updated as changes occur. Dave
Matthews Band allows taping at almost every live performance. There are
no soundboard feeds given, and it is therefore the responsibility of the
taper to bring their own equipment. Selling any recording is illegal and
will jeopardize everyone else's taping privileges. Thank you for your
loyalty and cooperation.
Until early 1995, the band allowed anyone that wanted to patch into
their soundboard. But, a few unknowing fans ruined it for everyone.
Bootleg CD companies bought these soundboard patches from these
undiscriminating fans and even stupider fans went out and bought these
bootlegs. The record company had little choice but to pull the plug on
the soundboard patch. However, as it says above, the band still allows
audience taping. So now, you can bring whatever recording devices you
have to the concert and tape the show. But learn from your forefathers'
mistakes and don't sell or purchase a live Dave Matthews Band tape or
CD, unless it is released by RCA or Bama Rags, of course

U2 has no such *official* policy. Yes, the band members will talk about
it in interviews but they have not taken an *official* stance on
bootlegs. And until they do (thereby giving fans the official
permission, copyright laws are being broken). Of course, you could
argue that their verbal statements is official policy. But we've heard
instances where security has made it a challenge to record shows. So,
what actually happens at a concert, doesn't jive with comments made by
the band.

Josh mentioned that even though the band has no problem with it they are
under contract to Polygram, so only Polygram can determine whether they
will allow recording of concerts. Maybe for many artists this holds
true but U2 *own* all rights to their work. Polygram could not put out
anything bearing U2's name without express permission from U2.
Therefore, if Polygram wants to put out a box set or greatest hits
album, they cannot do it without agreement from U2. Therefore, i feel
that if U2 came out formally supporting recording at their concerts,
Polygram might not like it but there's probably not too much they can do
without it getting ugly. Or maybe DMB holds more power with their
record company than U2 does with Polygram :-)

One thing that has not been mentioned in this discussion is the
purchase, by collectors, of Promo recordings. These are official
releases by CBS/Island/Polygram but state quite clearly they are not for
resale. That big gold stamp tells you they are not for sale and for
promotional use only. But these recordings are prized by all
collectors. So, technically you also *are* breaking copyright law.

Even if you don't sell but trade the material and accept nothing in
return other than postage, you are just as guilty of breaking copyright
law. There is no degree of who's more guilty than the other. Every
time a picture is scanned and placed on a website, every time you record
a U2 moment from the TV, you are breaking copyright laws.

Now, do i own bootleg recordings. Yes and i'm breaking the law by doing
so. I don't care what justification i give, i'm knowingly breaking the
law. That's my decision. I probably own about 30 bootleg ideas but a
few hundred official releases as well. Being a collector, if i had a
choice between buying a less expensive item from a bootlegger or buying
it officially from Polygram (at say double the price because the quality
would be better), i would buy from Polygram. But until U2 puts out
recordings of their live shows, i will still purchase or trade for

I'm not making any judgment calls on anyone on the list, because it's
none of my business. Though i think Wire has become overrun with
selling of boots, i just skip right through them.

Btw, concerning my post last night re the bootleggers not being fans, i
was talking about the ones that post list after list and that's all they
ever post. I'd just like to clear up any misunderstanding about that
and probably should have been a little clearer on that. Just because
you sell bootlegs doesn't mean you aren't a fan.


deseree s. stukes
potomac consulting group
(703) 527-1260

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b2 on Thu Aug 06 1998 - 07:20:29 PDT