Posted January 5, 2008

A bootlegger can make a profit off 1000 or less CD sales because he doesn't pay ANYTHING for the "intellectual property" that's on the CD (meaning the music, or movie, or videogame, etc.).

Just for example--let's say you're a legitimate reissue label, for example Sundazed or Varese Vintage or even the big boys like Capitol or MCA.

You have to pay the Harry Fox Agency songwriting and publishing mechanical royalties for the number of CD's you press (not how many you sell, but how many you press).

You have to pay to license the material from whoever owns it.

You have to pay a real audio engineer to dub the material from tapes and old discs to the digital format.

These expenses add up to thousands of dollars on any release, so if you're only selling 1000 or less copies, you will be losing money. Most of the big boy labels won't even license material to reissue labels unless they pay advance royalties on 10,000 CD's to make it worth their time--and as we know most of the great reissue music has a market of 1000 to 5000 CD's.

A bootlegger simply has to go out and "buy the box set" and use their mastering expertise, copy the files on a simple computer program, avoid all the mechanical royalties owed, and start making profit after only a few copies sold.

As a musician, I find it reprehensible that people have de-valued "intellectual property" to the point that it, for the most part, is considered something that should be FREE. It should NOT be free. People put their sweat and blood into making music and films and it deserves to be protected in a reasonable way.

However, I think that old public domain "intellectual property" should be made available to anyone who wants to hear it, and I also think that people should be free to make CD-R's for their own personal use and store their music on their computer.

Obviously, people should also be able to buy and sell used CD's.

But when it comes down to "I'll burn a copy of the Wynn Stewart box set for you," well, the company that might put up the money to do a legal endeavor is losing money whenever that happens. It takes away the small base of profit that kept those companies in business the last couple decades.

And people who burn CD's of new bands and artists who are trying to eke out a living selling a couple thousand CD's should really think twice about whether or not that artist's music should be "free."

-Deke Dekerson

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