Exodus 20:15 specifically states that stealing is a no-no (I won’t quote it directly, because I don’t want a debate of Bible translations going on in the comments). Why, then, are bootlegs such a common occurrence in gospel music?
Last month, my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN, to celebrate my mother’s 75th birthday. On this trip, I stopped in a small Christian-based store called God’s Corner that appeared to include a large selection of southern gospel music. I always enjoy visiting these types of stores because I can usually find something that’s otherwise difficult to find.
Sure enough, I found quite a few titles that I hadn’t seen available in some years, primarily a large selection of Cathedrals music. CD’s for Climbing Higher and Higher, Radio Days (the original Homeland release), I’ve Just Started Living, and more were all sealed and on the shelf for about $15 each.
And I didn’t purchase a single one because every single copy looked like exactly that – a COPY, and a poor one at that.
All of these CD’s had what appeared to be inkjet-printed inserts and second-hand plastic wrap (the kind used in retailers to re-seal a product). While I didn’t open any of the seals, I suspect the CD’s inside were actually CD-R’s (recordable CD’s), not professionally-replicated CD’s.
Another indicator that these were bootlegs was the fact that every single one of these CD’s has been out of print for a decade or more (yes, Radio Days was re-released by StowTown Records, but it had new packaging). Seeing multiple still-sealed copies for only $15 each seemed like a bit of a stretch, considering some of these CD’s go for twice that amount online.
So, if these are such blatant bootlegs, how is this store still in operation? Hasn’t anybody ever reported them? I’ll admit, a part of me wanted to spend the money on at least one of these CD’s so I could get a decent copy of the music, but I just couldn’t in good conscious buy a bootleg and support this venture.
And that might be part of the reason why these bootlegs remain. Those who want these recordings may know how hard it is to obtain legitimate copies, and are willing to fork out for an illegal version just to get that music.
But it’s still stealing, even if you’re not directly the one making the copies. If you purchase a bootleg, you’re obtaining something that was sourced illegally. That’s theft.
Now, whether the shop owner is making these copies themselves or if they’re obtaining them from a third-party distributor is not known, so I will not directly call out God’s Corner for bootlegging music (although I WILL question whether or not they are aware that they have bootleg product on their shelves). I actually suspect they’re coming from a third-party distributor, as I’ve actually seen similar bootleg SG CD’s at other locations from mom-and-pop Christian stores to flea markets and once picked up a copy of Gold City’s Renewed CD that turned out to be a bootleg from a similar store in Ohio.
In any case, I would caution those of you who might come across a “great deal” for an out-of-print product to be aware of these bootlegs floating around. They’re not all that hard to spot, and it’s almost certain that the artist and/or label are not seeing a penny from these releases.