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Quote of the Day - I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to. - Elvis Presley

It's Only Rock and Roll, But I Like It

Recording live concerts has been the bane of rock groups ever since tape recorders were invented. Now they're doing it with minidisk cameras.

Everyone's got a perspective on how it's supposed to work, and who's supposed to pay for it. Rock groups have tried to stop it by getting the "bootleg" law enacted.

But, it looks like it's going to be going on for awhile longer.

Judge Harold Baer, Jr. out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York nixed it.

The bootleg law, that is.

He overruled the law, saying that even though it was drafted with the "same spirit" as other federal copyright laws, it didn't meet statutory criteria. Baer said that while federal copyright laws protect property for a fixed period of time, the bootleg law had no such time limit, however, and instead granted "seemingly perpetual protection" to the live performances.

He also thought that copyright laws cover fixed items, such as books and records, not fluid things like live performances. Call me silly, but doesn't the recording industry already enjoy copyright protection for records it sells of live performances? That argument likely won't fly on appeal.

My logic didn't work for Judge Baer. The ruling isn't available online yet, so you can check here next week. Just search for Jean Martignon or her company, Midnight Records, where you can still buy live recordings by mail or over the internet.

As you can imagine, the Recording Industry Association of America was displeased with the ruling. According to the AP, the decision "stands in marked contrast to existing law and prior decisions that have determined that Congress was well within its constitutional authority to adopt legislation that prevented trafficking in copies of unauthorized recordings of live performances," quoting Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the RIAA.

Well, maybe so, but that's not the case right now.

So, buy 'em while you can. Either Congress or an appellate court will soon fix the problems identified by Judge Baer.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on 9/26/2004 at 13:48 Comments (1)



Comments by NRT from United Kingdom on Sunday, December 05, 2004 at 19:02

Since you've deep-linked to a page at my website (the index page would have been more meaningful and preferable, but never mind), I trust you won't mind my commenting on your penultimate sentence.
I, amongst many others, trade unofficial recordings of concerts, on CD-Rs, like-for-like. Official releases are strictly off-limits, and if a band subsequently releases an official recording of a concert already in circulation, circulation immediately ceases in favour of the official version.
The most important factor, above all others, is that nothing is ever for sale. Your recommendation to "buy 'em while you can" totally contradicts the spirit, and indeed practice, of trading.
Given this prevalent stance, some bands give overt approval (The Flower Kings is one that springs to mind), whereas others give tacit approval, 'turning a blind eye'. Jethro Tull (the one to which you linked at my site) is in this category; Ian Anderson has given permission for discrete trading so long as money is never, ever, involved.
It may be little more than terminology, but traders distance ourselves from the word 'bootleg', which is generally used to refer specifically to unofficial recordings which are sold for commercial benefit. Traders would welcome prosecution of commercial bootleggers. Indeed, one focus of trading is to obtain a copy of a commercial bootleg, make multiple copies and distribute them for free, thereby denying the bootlegger a market.


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