Let me make one thing absolutely crystal clear before going any further into this edition of Vie’s Verses. I do not, have not, and will never condone illegal downloading. Artists who spend their time and money recording an album expect to get paid for their hard work, and rightfully so. And while there are several arguments “fans” make about how it is the record company making money, not the artist, that’s complete hogwash and an argument for another day. Record companies expect a return on their investment and if an artist doesn’t sell well, don’t expect to see a follow up record. If everyone stole Pop Evil’s debut, there would be no War of Angels.
While I am completely opposed to illegal downloading, there is a gray area…concert bootlegs. Some bands (mostly jam bands) don’t mind their live recordings being distributed to the fans as long as the distributer is not making any money off them. Other bands are not crazy about the idea (Kiss comes to mind) but understand that the fans want all they can get their hands on. They don’t hold the fans accountable, they hold the bootleggers accountable. That leads to a very interesting point regarding file sharing websites and bootlegged concerts.
I will be the first to admit that I own a lot of bootleg concerts. I try to obtain the “live” version of any concert I’ve attended. However, if there is an official live release, I will buy the official release to ensure the artist makes money. If there is no official release, I will seek out the bootlegged version of the show for my personal collection. In the past few years, this has been relatively easy to do. Some internet searching will yield high results, thanks mostly in part to file sharing websites like Megaupload and Rapidshare. Prior to the ease of internet searching, I would buy these recordings off EBay or at record shows, and pay a hefty sum for them—usually $25 – $50.
When file sharing became more mainstream, the bootleggers selling at record shows and on EBay for exurbanite amounts of money became less and less. This was a good thing, at least for the fans. We could obtain a live concert recording at no cost. If the artist was cool with it, there were no worries at all. If the artist was not happy, but understandable, that was cool too. If the artist was completely against it, I usually didn’t seek out the show.
Last week, the US Government shut down leading file sharing site, Megaupload. There are several illegal charges being brought against the company including fraud, copyright infringement, and money laundering. I don’t think the government is going to stop there. I have a strong suspicion that they will move onto the next file sharing service like Rapidshare, Uploading, and others. They are going after them all. And while I think it’s a great way to stop illegal downloading of official releases, I also think there is going to be an unintended ripple effect—the return of the bootlegger. Once live concert recordings are no longer easily accessible, the bootleggers will be back with a vengeance, painting their ads all over EBay and Craigslist. And this time, the price will be $50 – $80 for that rare live show you’ve always wanted (inflation sucks, doesn’t it?).
And don’t think that the sharing sites are the only targets. YouTube will be on their list as well. There are millions of illegal videos ranging from official music videos to live concert recordings that could lead to a copyright infringement suit and shut down. After that, who knows what’s next? Hell, Hard Rock Hideout could be shut down if a video is posted without proper clearance from the record company. Anything is possible.
Personally, I don’t think that shutting down file sharing sites is the right answer. Yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but other sites will pop up to take their place. I don’t have the answer on how to stop illegal downloading. All I can do is spread the word that I haven’t done it, don’t do it, and will not do it, except for that gray area—which could make me a hypocrite to some degree.
One thing is for certain, the ripple effect has already started to take place. A largely well known site that featured Springsteen concert bootlegs (for free) from every year of his entire career was recently terminated for violation of copyright laws. Oddly enough, the site that sells the bootlegs has not been shut down. I don’t understand how that is possible. And I’m sure that other sites will follow. There’s a very well known hard rock concert sharing site that is probably under close watch. It wouldn’t surprise me if that gets downed next. Especially considering that a lot of the links from that site go directly to Megaupload.
While I applaud the fact that illegal downloading of albums has met a roadblock, I am disappointed that the bootleggers will be back in action soon. It could mean the end of my owning concerts I’ve attended, and that’s sad, but there is no way I will pay $50 for a concert recording. I didn’t even like paying $25 in the past. The government may think they have a victory on their hands, but waiting in the wings is the bootleggers, and once the dust settles, they will rise up hoisting their victory signs. That is the scariest notion of all.
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