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6 July, 2004

Bootlegger prosecuted

The Guardian reports that a CD 'pirate' has pleaded guilty to fraud, specifically the commissioning, manufacture and sale of thousands of illicit CD recordings, netting 4-6 million over a decade.  At the time of his arrest in 2002, the police seized more than 28,000 illicit CDs from his premises, with an estimated retail value of 500,000.

The Guardian makes the usual error in terminology: the offender was manufacturing and selling CDs derived from unofficial concert recordings, which are correctly termed 'bootlegs', making him a commercial bootlegger. If he had been cloning and selling direct copies of officially-released albums, they would be termed counterfeited or 'pirated' CDs, and he'd be a pirate.

Either way, I applaud the court case, as I'm always keen to distance myself, a CD-R trader, from parasitic bootleggers.
The former activity involves fans of bands, who have already bought every official release, swapping individual copies of unofficial recordings for free, merely to hear and enjoy the music.
Bootleggers have no interest in the music or artists, seeking to gain commercial benefit from the efforts of musicians, exclusively for profit.

There is absolutely no cross-over between traders and bootleggers, beyond traders actively denying bootleggers a market by occasionally obtaining copies of bootlegs, copying them, and trading them on for free. Incidentally, this doesn't mean traders are parasitically reliant on bootleggers to obtain source recordings in the first place; the vast majority are donated to 'the community' directly by the audience members who made the recordings.

Why would anyone pay for a recording openly available for free? Frankly, I was a little surprised to read of this court case, as in the 'age of the internet', the very activity of bootlegging is obsolete. We hear a lot about pirating, particularly illegal downloading of official releases (to restate: I totally oppose all such activities), but I'd thought large-scale bootlegging was (rightfully) dead.
I really hope sloppy journalism doesn't confuse the quite separate issues.

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