January 22, 2015

Purist Ramblings: Bootin' N' Leggin'!

No matter where you turn.  No matter where you go, you're going to find yourself in that discussion about bootlegging and who draws the line where, well, at least when you're in the toy world.

But I guess not always.  It's likely called other things in other places, so you may find the "ripping off" or "plagiarism" discussions in different topics, but there are a lot of similarities and common threads.

You can be on a music forum and have the discussion that this particular musician completely ripped of the guitar riff or beat from a classic track.  The other side of the argument says it's a sampling, re-imagining, homage, or anything similar to that, and everyone and their mother will draw lines in the sand and dissect every facet until it's virtually not about the same subject.

There are some common things about sampling text, music, or even toy molds that just about everyone will agree.  It's generally frowned upon if you're copying someone else's work exactly with no creative altering from yourself.  It shows all kinds of disrespect to the artist, to the art, it's fans, and shows you want nothing but a quick buck.  Most people will be ok with heavy sampling, if it's reworked in ways that it becomes it's own identity.  If it feels like a new piece of art, even sharing off of others, it's generally accepted.

However, this is where I share my nuthouse opinion and receive a shower of rotten tomatoes.

I think we should not say what is to be or not to be, but decide what succeeds or fails with our support and money.  This is certainly not me condoning ripping off peoples' art and stealing food off their plate, but if the bootlegger gets away with it and makes money, who's really to blame then?  If a cheap knockoff comes out and blows sales of the original piece out of the water, then something could be said about the market's worth of the product.  If it's less-sophisticated but more successful, then something could be said about it's feature's worth to the market.  Trust me, I'm not saying I'd prefer a junkier keshi, I just think there are things to listen to and learn from when the low-end productions beat you at your own game.  The market is saying something, not with words, but with cash register bells, and I think it's worth the listen.

So I'm not the one to say "No, you can't bootleg that!"  Sure, I wouldn't find it the most respectful thing in the world, but there could be a couple good outcomes from it.  If you're hitting something the market wants out of the original, that the original isn't doing, you could succeed.  I don't mean a general variant on color, per se, but maybe something fundamental, like articulation.  For example, if particular video game or anime franchise haven't been represented in keshi yet, a bootleg version of a miniaturized action figure could be successful.  Also, if a franchise has been discontinued long enough, a die-hard market may still remain hungry for anything to collect, and bootleg may be successful.

Keshi is naturally very threatened by bootlegging because the product is both simplistic and affordable.  Keshi is a beautiful tiny sculpture, but it may not be too far removed from a glob of melted cheap plastic either.  Keshi and bootlegging has a history intertwining like DNA strands, where over time some knock-offs have become just as coveted as originals.

It's hard to say what the rules are.  I surely didn't want to write a piece outlining them, but instead, insist our money decides what lives and what dies.  If we support a bootleg, we may have failed the original artist, but it's their job to hear the coins drop and adapt.  It's never too late to make a choice on something or try something new.  I think the worst thing is to lose your livelihood to bootleggers without a fight, because most times, they can only beat you one way.  Listen to the market.  See where the money is going.  Understand what that is saying, and fight back.

Thanks for the read everyone and thanks to my buddy Ryan for the new image up top!

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