Let’s stir the controversy pot a little. Taro made me annoyed because of a post he wrote about Cowboy Bebop MP3s available on the internet. I’m not going to link to it because I’m still mildly peeved :P Anyway, I’ve decided to write a quick guide on bootleg or otherwise pirated anime soundtrack CDs. Anime CDs tend to be pirated/bootlegged more often in the West than any other type of CD simply because they are not often released in the West, and may already be out of print in Japan.
Kids, you should already know that piracy of music and CDs is morally wrong and illegal to boot. I’m not going to tell you why, you should already know full well. If your small brain cannot comprehend why downloading those MP3s from Napster was wrong then read this Anime Music FAQ. I will say that supporting legal production and sales of anime CDs will encourage the companies to release more of them in more regions of the world. So even if you can’t get what you want now, it will be there in the future.
That applies to all form of music, Japanese and otherwise. But in this post I’ll focus on anime music in particular.
When buying CDs on eBay, or that small shop in Chinatown, or on a trip to Hong Kong, you should be very wary as to whether the product you are buying is legitimate, or just a bootleg. Strictly speaking, a bootleg is not a illegal copy of a CD but the term “bootleg CD” is used often when speaking of pirated music in anime circles, so I’ll stick with the term “bootleg” for the rest of this post. There are some signs you can look for to make sure you aren’t buying an illegal CD.
Firstly, the price. Does it seem insanely cheap? Then it’s probably too good to be true. There’s no way that the artists that made this CD could possibly earn any income when the CD is being sold for US$5.
Secondly, does the printing look cheap? Not very well done? Is it photocopied? Bootleg.
Thirdly, and most importantly – look at the company that’s releasing the CD. Do they have a Yahoo or Hotmail or some other generic email address for their contact information? Bootleg. Does the logo look like it’s been printed cheaply? Below is a list of known bootleg CD publishers:
- Son May (SM) – GGG, GA, GSM, SM, SS, AnG, SMA, SMB, GAME, CK
- Smiley Face Records Ltd – KA, HO
- Ever Anime – A8, TV, CV, NP, GM
- Hi Fashion
- Alion – ALCA
- Miya Records – MICP
- Archer Records – R
- Ho Son – B, H
- Wisdom Records
- Top Circle
- Golden Diamond
These are some of the logos you’ll find printed on bootlegged anime CDs but be warned – these logos change often. Catalogue numbers are the best way to check for legitimacy.
There are probably more but these are the most common. These companies have not obtained licenses for any of their anime soundtrack releases, so none of the money made from their sales go to the artists who created the music. The letters in bold next to their names are the letters in CD catalogue numbers that can help you identify them as bootlegs, eg: MICA-0049 is Miya Records’ catalogue number for their bootleg Azumanga Daioh OST.
Catalogue numbers for CDs can be found on the back or spine of CD cases, or if you’re buying online, should be listed in the product description. Amazon used to list the catalogue number of CDs but seem to have stopped recently. I’m not sure why, but they do at least list the record company’s name.
On eBay, this is more difficult to verify, as there is usually sparse information in the product description. But, you can alway look at the first and second points to identify bootlegs, and, failing that, simply ask the seller for the CD’s catalogue number.
Another way to check your anime CD’s legitimacy (or any CD for that matter) is with MusicBrainz. This community-based website is slowly building up more information about bootlegged CDs, particularly anime CDs. They list the Pirate label’s name and relevant catalogue number. You can also contribute if you have found – to your dismay – that you’ve bought bootlegs. Add information to make sure no-one else does the same. You will need to sign up for free account, but MusicBrainz is worth signing up for, for many other reasons.
Remember kids! If you aren’t buying legitimate copies of anime CD soundtracks, then the people who created the music you love aren’t getting paid. They might be less inclined to make more music in the future. Also, bootleg CDs are often of inferior quality and may skip or fail to read in your CD player. They may also be missing tracks that a legitimate CD would have. These days, with the popularity of anime booming in the West, particularly America, it’s very easy to find legitimate copies of the CDs. Many are being manufactured by the same companies that release the DVDs. Here is a list of common legitimate CD distributors:
COCC – Columbia Japan
KICA, KIDA, KICS – King Record (Starchild)
KTCR – Kitty
LACA – Lantis
PICA, PIDA – Pioneer
PCCG – Pony Canyon
TKCA, <2digits>ATC – Tokuma Japan
TYCY – Toshiba-EMI (Futureland)
VICL, VIDL – Victor (also known as JVC)
VPCG – Vap
SVWC – SME Visual Works (also known as Aniplex)
Remember how I mention that Azumanga Daioh soundtrack before? You can buy an official copy from Geneon in America for only US$14.98. Remember this when you think about spending $8 on a copy you found on eBay. Amazon is always a safer bet.
Any more details you can add to my rant above? Comment it!