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BOOTLEG by Clinton Heylin

BOOTLEG

The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry

By Clinton Heylin

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13031-7
Publisher: St. Martin's

 A ramshackle history that defends the dissemination of unauthorized rock records. The specific business Heylin (Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades, 1991, etc.) praises here is the illicit pressing and distribution of records or compact discs made from studio outtakes and live performances, as distinct from the counterfeiting of officially released records. Pop bootlegging began in 1969 when Bob Dylan's unreleased 1966 ``basement tapes'' were pressed on a record called Great White Wonder. After this Heylin's story quickly gets murky, for his principal subjects are not musical performances but the perils of clandestine manufacturing and shipping and the morass that is international copyright law. No one seems to have been able to deduce how much of the Dylan record was illegal or how to prosecute the perpetrators, so convoluted were the laws governing both copyright and record-company contracts, and so elusive were the bootleggers. The most popular bootlegs were themselves copied or imitated with variable-quality source material by entrepreneurs, until of necessity someone started publishing the buyer's guide Hot Wacks to advise fans of which records were even audible. Heylin distinguishes between putatively altruistic bootleggers who provide desirable merchandise and those who are interested only in turning a profit (it's uncertain into which camp fell the manufacturers of a 70-album box of Led Zeppelin concerts). He persuasively brushes off the legitimate industry's exaggerated claims of lost revenue diverted to bootleg sales, and only at the end of the book does he mention parenthetically that he finds nonpayment of royalties to performers ``morally indefensible.'' The book's second half is chiefly about bootlegging in Asia and Europe, where because of differing copyright protections among the member countries of the European Community, distribution of unauthorized records enjoyed a boom over the past decade. To explain why, Heylin swamps himself in bewildering dissections of international law. As a business writer Heylin makes a good Bob Dylan fan.