The official definition of "bootleg," taken from the Mirriam-Webster College Dictionary, is "to produce, reproduce, or distribute illicitly or without authorization." Bootleg CD's are those that are reproduced and sold without authorization by the original publishers of the music. This has become a very serious issue throughout the entire recording industry, but it's an especially serious problem among the game and anime music community here in the U.S. Countries such as Taiwan and China have taken advantage of the lack of widespread distribution of game and anime soundtracks, and have thus flooded the market with cheap, unauthorized knockoffs. These copies of the CDs are often inferior in both packaging and sound quality. Aside from not being an "official" product, the original publishers receive nothing from these sales, which ultimately hurts the very artists who create the music. In fact, U.S. vendors are sometimes fooled by these bootlegs, since they often don't know what legitimate albums look like. However, it should be noted that if the vendor is known to import Japanese merchandise, they should know what Japanese albums look like overall.
It's always best to check with a database such as Chudah's Corner or Game Music Revolution before purchasing or bidding on uncertain soundtracks. You should be cautious if you see albums under $20 USD, as they are often bootlegs. While some authentic Japanese albums do go on sale at low prices, such sales are not common. On average, authentic Japanese albums are at least $25 USD.
Below are examples of known bootleg publishers, although, new companies are popping up all the time. The following details should also help in identifying the most common bootleg CD's.
Catalog numbers may begin with SM-, SMA-, GA-, GGG-, A&G-, GAME-, PRO-, GSM-, SMG-, SS-, SB-, SMD-, SMB-. The catalog numbers and logo are often very prominent.
Catalog numbers begin with GM-, A8, TV, CV, and NP. It may be hard to identify from the front cover (unless you see the distinct 2-4 disc "bubble"), but the rainbow colored logo and purple/yellow/teal bars on the catalog numbers on the spine card are clear indicators. The logo also appears on the back of albums.
Catalog prefix sets begin with FF-. The logo featured on the back and side of an album is the typical bootleg indicator, although it is unknown if there are any features on the front cover.
Catalog prefix sets begin with KA- and HO-. Like Son May, the catalog number and logo are fairly prominent, but be careful not to confuse this with the First Smile Entertainment logo (which is yellow).
Catalog numbers begin with ALCA-. There are no prominent indicators other than the catalog number, company name on the back cover, and the "Made in Taiwan" near the barcode. Note: Be careful not to confuse these with official Alfa Record releases, which also used the ALCA- prefix and were published in the early 90's.
Catalog prefix sets begin with A-.
Catalog prefix sets begin with KO-. Reports from our forum visitors indicate that this bootlegger is copying Square Enix and other recent albums.
Catalog prefix sets begin with MICA-. Reports from our forum visitors indicate that this bootlegger is copying many game and anime albums. The logo appears on the back of albums.
If you are still having difficulty identifying a bootleg CD after using the above guidelines, you may e-mail us at email@example.com, and one of Chudah's Corner's staff members will try to assist you in determining the authenticity of the subject CD.
The following are names of sellers who have flooded the Ebay marketplace with bootleg anime and game music soundtracks, making legitimate CD's very difficult to uncover through standard searches. If you would like to add a seller's name to the list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to a current or recently-ended auction by the seller in question.