(v) to bootleg, bootlegging
  • To produce, distribute, or sell without permission or illegally

(n, adj) bootleg
  • Product resulting from the act of bootlegging

Originally derived from smugglers' method of transporting illegal alcohol in the leg of their boots during the US era of prohibition.

Bootlegging now refers most commonly to the practice of making, distributing and selling unauthorized copies of copyrighted, trademarked or patented materials. the practice is also often referred to as "piracy," although neither "piracy" nor "bootleg" have any legal meaning. In the courts terms like "copyright infringement" are used.

In most cases, but not all, bootlegs are illegal. However for many years it was legal in Taiwan (Republic of China on Taiwan) to make unauthorized copies of foreign material that had not been released in Taiwan within 30 days of their initial publication. Although these bootlegs were legal in Taiwan, it was illegal to import them into most other countries; Taiwanese bootlegs were always illegal in North America. Since joining the World Trade Organization on January 1st, 2002, the practice is no longer legal in Taiwan.

While technically illegal the instant they are sold, distributed, traded or even given away for free, fan translations such as fansubs and fandubs are generally considered bootlegs only if they are either sold for profit and/or distributed after the title has been domestically licensed.

return to lexicon