I found this sleeve insert hiding inside a 1976 Mercury Records release of a Statler Brothers album. The story strives to inform the record owner of the hundreds of millions of dollars lost to 8-Track pirates. Bruce Meyer, who was apparently a UPI feature columnist, writes the story that still seems relevant some nearly four decades later. Jerry Lee Lewis makes a cameo.
Here is the story for your reading pleasure:
Tape Piracy… Everyone’s Problem
Next time you’re out shopping for records or tape—watch for pirates. Not the kind with skull and crossbones and rusty cutlasses—watch for music pirates. There are plenty of them around and, like their 18th Century colleagues, they’re breaking the law, to the tune of $200 million a year.
The modern pirates’ racket is duplicating and selling sound recordings that don’t belong to them, usually as a tape cassette or an eight-track cartridge. Their income goes right into their own pockets.
Lewis One-Man Pirate Smasher
While many recording artists have actively engaged in promoting the fight against antipiracy by appearing before state legislatures and acting as witnesses in court cases, Jerry Lee Lewis has taken the bull by the horns.
John Polk, RIAA investigator based in Nashville, told a NARM antipiracy seminar, that Lewis recently pulled up to a gas station in the south and noticed a rack of pirate tapes in the station. He asked who owned the rack and when told that an unidentified man serviced it weekly from the truck of his car, Lewis took the rack outside the station and smashed it. When the station operator asked him what he should do when the route man came and asked what happened to his rack, Lewis replied: “Tell him ‘Killer’ was here.”
A music pirate simply buys a record or tape and—without authorization from the company that released the original—makes copies of it. The copies are sold to wholesalers or retailers—or sometimes directly to the consumer.
The price of a pirate tape is usually lower than the original simply because the pirate can make huge profits at a lower retail price. He has none of the expenses of a legitimate recording company. The pirate picks only hit recordings, which means he supports none of the thousands of unknown artists legitimate companies carry at a loss in their search for the music the public wants to hear. The pirate pays no royalties to the performers whose work he steals and usually makes only token payments to music publishers to maintain a semblance of legitimacy.
Piracy flourished despite both federal and state laws against it. Recordings released before February 15, 1972, are protected under the laws of 26 states. Recordings made and releases since that date are covered by the Federal Copyright Law (as amended by Public Law 92-140).
Piracy hurts the record companies, of course. The $200 million that pirates pick up represents some 10 per cent of the total for the music industry and more than one-third of the legitimate industry’s tape sales. But it also hurts the artists, the unions, music publishers and honest retailers and wholesalers who refuse to handle pirated recordings. And in the long run, it’s bound to hurt you—the record buyer—because your money is going not to support the performers you enjoy, but to line the pockets of a criminal.
Watch for pirate recordings. The easiest way to spot them is the label.
IS THERE A PHOTOGRAPH?
Legitimate companies spend a great deal of money to make their products look attractive. Besides quality, multi-color printing, nearly all legitimate tapes and records have professional cover art. But pirate recordings usually have plain labels, often nothing more than a listing of title, artist and the names of the songs.
IS THERE MORE THAN ONE ARTIST ON THE SAME TAPE?
At times legitimate record companies put more than one artist on a record or tape, but it is rare. However, pirates frequently put together tapes composed of the current top hits, therefore many artists are represented. These tapes are often called “The Big Hits” or “Top 20” etc. Make sure you check these multi-artist tapes before purchasing.
WHAT IS THE PACKAGING LIKE?
Also record companies use distinctive cover art for each album and tape, generally depicting the artists in some way. Pirates seldom use photos or drawings of the artists and multicolor printing and art work is rare. Often just a list of tunes and artists appear on the cover and the same design can be used over and over with the titles changed to fit the piece of product. Even the shrink-wrap around an album or tape can tell the story. Legitimate product is professionally wrapped and fits tightly. Pirate tapes and albums usually fit loosely.
IS THERE A STATEMENT ON THE LABEL, something like “Copyright Law complied with” or “Fees and royalties paid”? If there is, it’s probably a pirate; legitimate companies have no need to put such statements on their labels.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU SPOT A PIRATE?
Contact your local police and describe to them exactly what you observed. (In most cities, music piracy is handles by the Bunko-Forgery Division). They will know which local, state, or federal laws may apply.
Alternatively, contact your local Phonogram distributor, the distributor for any legitimate recording company, or the local representative of the Recordings Industry Association of America (RIAA).
It’s up to those who are being injured by the pirates to stop them. That includes those in the records and tapes industry…. and you…
Story by Bruce Meyer UPI feature columnist.
So, Jerry Lee Lewis smashed a rack of 8-Track tapes. Ok, but who had to clean it up?