In the Old Time Radio community, there is a widespread belief that programs are there to be heard and enjoyed. This is hard to refute.
There is also a pervading opinion that once a program has been released, either on tape or on the air, that it then belongs to everybody. This is plainly not true. Radio drama and other forms of audio programming cost money, time, and resources to produce; in return for that cost, the originators of that programming retain intellectual and performance rights to that material.
In short, they own it.
Now, many of the glorious performances that comprise the Golden Age of Radio are lost to us. Some are lost forever, simply because the show was held to be valueless at the time: If it was ever recorded, the media were reused or recycled.
Some are only lost for now, until some lucky cleaning or salvage crew discovers a cache of ancient tapes or discs containing the treasure of a bygone age. Many of these programs never included a copyright statement, certainly not what is now considered correct. In addition, many of the originators of the program are long gone, retired or dead; there may be nobody left to fight for ownership of the show, and it (informally) falls into public domain.
The OTR community is founded, and leans heavily, on the unauthorized duplication and distribution of audio programming. This is done with the best of motives: To get the program into the hands -- and ears -- of an appreciative audience. Where there is no findable author or copyright holder, no one is hurt, and everyone benefits.
The system works because we presume that the distributors of radio programs on cassette have either been authorized to do so by the programs' owners, or have failed in a reasonable attempt to locate the owner of a particular work, and thus conclude that it is in the public domain.
We are aware that at least one OTR dealer has willfully made bootleg copies of ARTC tapes for subsequent sale. His catalog listed our newest titles, and it listed our forthcoming titles as being "available soon" -- from him.
This means that he had current addresses for both ARTC and our then-authorized national distributor, Sunset Productions. This means he cannot possibly be unaware that the material is owned by a current and active company that maintains all of these titles in print.
The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company is not a subsidiary of a faceless, nameless multi-national with money to burn on a moribund art form. We are a group of people who love what we do, and the medium we do it in. We take in just enough money to sustain our operations.
And all of that money comes from tape sales.
We view these actions as theft. We draw little comfort from the fact that he had the audacity to steal from bigger companies than ours (the ZBS and LodesTone catalogs were also amply represented). All we know is that he is, at least potentially, costing us much-needed money -- money without which we will be forced to close our doors.
We call upon him to do the moral, right thing, and immediately cease to deal in bootleg copies of programs that are legally available from their rightful owners. We call upon the OTR community to refuse to deal with any distributor who would knowingly deprive a company struggling to revive radio drama of its most needed resource: Exclusive control of its product, and the monetary income that goes with it.