ger(boot'leg'er) n. 1) one who sells or profits from the sale of counterfeit goods 2) one who engages in the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials 3) a pirate, a thief, a plagiarist
Bootlegging has been a part of tattoo culture for a long, long time. Years ago, it really wasn't much of a problem -- just a copy here and there to trade with a few buddies in the business. Afterall, there wasn't much printed flash available back then -- in fact, there weren't many tattooists back then either. It was a small, albeit illegal, trade that went pretty much unnoticed. But all that was about to change.
The popularity of tattoos exploded over the past decade, and so did the demand for quality tattoo art. Talented hard-working artists have created tens of thousands of tattoo design sheets for studios and their customers -- and bootleggers have copied every one of them, thousands of times. Just as sharks are drawn to the smell of blood, so these pirates are drawn to the smell of a dishonest dollar. Today, the illegal reproduction and sale of copyrighted tattoo art has evolved from little more than a nuisance into a massive industry all its own.
Ever alert for an opportunity to make a fast buck, bootleggers quickly climbed aboard the technology bandwagon and began churning out pirated flash on color copiers, CDs and DVDs. From petty pirates selling counterfeit copies door-to-door to sophisticated rip-off artists fencing CDs and DVDs full of stolen art on internet auction sites, bootlegging has become big business. It is conservatively estimated that the worldwide black market in counterfeit tattoo art far exceeds a half billion -- yes, billion -- dollars every year!
As a tattoo customer, why should I care about bootleg art?
Be aware of "bootleg flash" when you are shopping for a professional studio. As a potential tattoo customer, spotting bootleg flash in a studio can tell you a lot about that studio -- calling into question their honesty and ethics, as well as the quality and safety of that studio. A studio that offers their customers inferior art may well be inferior in other areas as well.
Check the design sheets on display in the studio. Do they look professionally printed, or do they look like cheap 3rd generation copies? Does each sheet have the artist or company name and copyright printed on it, or are they somehow "missing" from the sheets?
A studio displaying bootleg copies of tattoo designs means that shop has willingly cut corners just to save a couple bucks. And if they are willing to cut corners out in the "showroom", how many corners have they cut in the "backroom"? What other inferior or counterfeit products are being used? The answer to that question may mean the difference between getting a safe tattoo and getting an infection -- or worse...
As a professional studio, why should I care about bootleg art?
Actually, no truly professional studio or tattooist would even ask that question. They have no interest in lining the pockets of a thief. They prefer to buy from the artists and companies that create and produce legitimate money-making tattoo flash -- not those who copy and steal it. Professional tattooists and studios know that quality popular tattoo flash designs are an investment that pays big dividends, saving them a lot of time and making them a lot of money.
Professional studios also know that their customers deserve to be offered the very best. They want customers to know that their studio stands for quality work -- both on the walls and in the skin -- and they know a well earned studio reputation certainly isn't built on a foundation of poor quality tattooing or poor quality art.
Demand the best, shun the rest!
Professionally drawn quality tattoo designs are readily available from a variety of legal sources -- direct from the artists, authorized distributors and representatives, reputable supply companies, and licensed on-line websites. Counterfeit copies are available from a variety of illegal sources as well -- traveling "flash salesmen", flea markets, cheap tattoo CDs, so-called "free flash" websites, and a host of "on-line auctions" which are nothing more than white-washed pawn shops for fencing stolen goods.
Whether you are a tattoo customer or a professional tattooist, don't settle for inferior stolen art -- in your skin, or in your studio. Demand the best. You will not regret it.