Bootlegging has been around for as long as I can remember. In fact, it has been around longer than I have. A website called Sharing The Groove is bringing bootlegging into the digital millenium. By using p2p software (Bittorrent) and providing a message board where users can search for particular bootlegs, the website has given fans access to a vast amount of rare, unreleased, live, and demo recordings. Grayson Brulte is the founder of Sharing The Groove and states the website has over 200,000 registered users. Users of the website simply register a screen name and navigate through a message forum type interface where they can search for music they are interested in. In addition, users can post "ISO" or "In Search Of" messages where they request particular bootlegs to be posted.
For the moment, the Recording Industry Association of America, which sued Napster over copyright infringement, declined to comment on sites like Sharingthegroove and whether the group would initiate similar lawsuits. Sharing concert bootlegs is illegal, said the entertainment lawyer David Moser, the same as sharing studio recordings.
''As far as the law is concerned, there isn't any distinction,'' said Mr. Moser, an assistant professor at the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Nashville's Belmont University and the author of the book ''Music Copyright for the New Millennium.''
Many bands choose to ignore bootlegging because of the unspoken assumption that the tapes will be traded among fans, not sold for profit.
There appears to be mixed views from the artists themselves. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead openly endorses the Sharing the Groove website. However, Bert Holman, manager for the Allman Brothers Band asked SharingTheGroove to remove some of the bands shows from their website. Their request was complied with. It is interesting to note that Holman stated the reason for the request was because the Allman Brothers Band were contemplating selling their own official "bootlegs" of their concerts.
One of the theories for why sites that share bootleg concerts are not shutdown by the RIAA is because record companies do not own copyrights in concert performances. It would be interesting to note that members of SharingTheGroove closely moderate what is posted to their site. Copyrighted commercial material is not allowed. Moreover, members monitor sites like eBay where bootleg sales may turn up.