Great White Wonder: The
Morality of Bootleɠɠinɠ Bob
JAMES C. KLAGGE
In 1969 a blank white double album appeared on the shelves of a few record stores. Dubbed The Great White Wonder, presumably because it resembled the Beatles' White Album in appearance, in fact it was twenty-three previously unreleased recordings by Bob Dylan—approved by neither Dylan nor his record company. So began the musical bootlegging business: In the ensuing decades dozens more illicit albums, and then thousands more illicit compact discs, appeared with studio and concert recordings of Dylan and of many other musicians as well. But is there anything morally wrong with bootleg recordings?
I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow (“My Back Pages”)
Questions like “Are bootleg recordings morally wrong?” provoked the first real philosopher in the Western tradition, Socrates (470–399 B.C.E.), to insist that people define the words they use before they tackle difficult questions. While this sometimes appeared to be hair-splitting to those he talked with, often it is important to know exactly what we are talking about. What is a “bootleg recording”?
Officials in the music and film industries often complain about how much money they lose from “bootlegged” movies and CDs, usually made in non-Western countries, and marketed throughout the world. They are cheap because no royalties go