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ADA...live in concert

CREATIVE MUSIC PIRATES USE FEDERAL LAW TO MAKE BETTER BOOTLEGS

Issue: "Locking up the big guns," Aug. 12, 2000

Congress has never enacted a piece of legislation titled the Law of Unintended Consequences, but that self-enforcing statute always seems to have its effect. Take the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires-among an ever-growing number of other things-that the hard of hearing be enabled to enjoy live rock concerts.

To the great consternation of the recording industry, bootleggers have figured out a way to take advantage of the law to make studio-quality recordings of the shows, make illegal copies, and sell them for top dollar. Here's how they do it: Bootleggers simply ask for an assistive listening device (ALD), which lets them intercept a low-power FM feed directly from the concert's soundboard. That's the sound that's mixed and pumped into the concert hall speakers. Then they steal the signal and burn a CD. Frank Creighton, senior vice president of anti-piracy at the Recording Industry Association of America, said "the quality is much higher than a typical bootleg," which is made without the benefit of the direct feed.

Mr. Creighton says that arena policing is generally left up to bands and their road crews. "Every major act that's in the Billboard top 100 is getting bootlegged in some manner," he said.

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The Recording Industry Association only becomes involved once the illegal material is manufactured and distributed. Mr. Creighton says the industry loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually through the various forms of bootlegging, and this new technique should add to that total.

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