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PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.

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Holy hot-headed hippies, Batman

There's a blowup in progress in the Internet Archive forums over the removal of Grateful Dead concert recordings. The official announcement at the top of the thread reads, in part:

Based on discussions with many involved, the Internet Archive has been asked to change how the Grateful Dead concert recordings are being distributed on the Archive site for the time being... Audience recordings are available in streaming format (m3u). Soundboard recordings are not available.

In other words, high-quality downloads of Grateful Dead shows, either of audience recordings or "soundboards," are no longer available from Archive.org. It's pretty clear if you read the statements from Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle (I give him a huge amount of credit just for participating in the forums at all, especially at a time like this) that this wasn't the Archive's idea.

In case this is all new to you, the Grateful Dead (and their fans) have in recent years become pioneers in digital music sharing because of the band's longstanding policy that fans should be free to trade concert recordings with one another. So a massive uncontrolled experiment in legal digital filesharing has been underway. The Internet Archive stepped up to help house and distribute the massive quantities of bits involved.

Now the rules are being changed, and however things work out it's sure to be precedent-setting. It seems likely that tweaks and revisions to this policy will be made in the coming days and weeks. I hope that somewhere in the minds of the decisionmakers in the Grateful Dead organization is an awareness that people from all sides of the filesharing debate -- people whose concerns extend far beyond this particular band and these particular fans -- will be watching closely.

I can't pretend I understand even a fraction of the business or history here, but David Gans certainly does, and if you're looking for further reading his first blog posting on the issue offers some good perspective.

Update 2005-12-01: Looks like the recordings are coming back -- at least the audience recordings, if not the "soundboards." This post from the IA guys says: "We at archive.org now realize that our mistaken attempts to move quickly were based on what we thought the Grateful Dead wanted. For this we apologize both to the Grateful Dead and their community."

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

3 comments

Comment from Sad Hippie , 1 week later

You can't listen to a stream in your car.

You know, I turned on to them when I was 14. It used to be that you would see entire families at shows...3 generations sometimes despite the negative (druggie) elements in the scene.

I'm 40 now. I have a 13 year old now. Nobody that she knows in school know anything about The Grateful Dead except those few that have parents that still like the Dead... and of course, many have moved on. Many folks my age don't have CD buying on thier list of priorities like they might have when they were young.

So at this point, when and if they buy a Dead CD over something like John Mayer or something else current their kids will like too or whatever, it is a function of returning the good will of the joy the Dead brought them back in the day. They drop the cash even if they know there's bootleg soundboards out there, even if they have bootlegs themselves. They drop the cash exactly because they know the Dead are so cool as to allow their shows to be online for free. It's all about good will at this point. A Dead CD is no longer a "must have" item. They spend the money because they still support the idea of them.

The Dead lost the good will by doing this... and you can still find soundboards easy enough in other places. By losing the good will, they are nothing now. The magic has left and they are no longer special beyond the nostalgia value. What the band uniquely had was more valuable than the potential future net worth of those soundboards (especially given the fact they own so many more in their vaults). The bands capital net worth was tied directly to their once unique relationship to their fans, not "intellectual property".

In the early days of the net, John Perry Barlowe, who penned the most original part of Bob Weirs songs, the lyrics, once opined that the value of intellectual property lies in it's distance to the source. The experience of seeing a band is better than the album, and the experience of the album is far better than just the raw file. Ahhh the hours I spent just looking at the art of American Beauty. Give me a CD studio-quality remastered show with nice cover art and lyrics, and I'll buy it even if I have the file on my hard-drive. I'll buy it because I love(ed) that band, and want(ed) to pass my love on as a gift to others... I supported everything they were about in a way that was as unique as the band's policy was.

In countless interviews I heard Jerry talk about that magical feedback loop of energy they created between their fans and themselves. The trust they had with their fans was an extension of that.

If the members of the band can't see this function they have always played and now it's all about money it's because they are as out of touch as George Bush at a NAACP dinner. Yeah, and Bob has just become that pathetic aging rock guy whose addictions cloud him from seeing that he's no long relevant and has become nothing more than a bad cliche. Worse yet, I know that his personal wealth finds him with too many sycophants in his circle to tell him otherwise.

So have another line Bob, and pay people to tell you that you still matter and still are special because of some originality you had in your youth. You are just as ordinary as the next guy now. Nothing is more common than greed...and this from a band that once was special? Quite pathetic indeed.

Comment from John Stewart Veitch , 8 months later

I saw only 3 Dead gigs, all in London spanning over 25 years. I was immediately hooked and thatsense of belonging has been with me ever since. I have just been introduced to the net and the wrangles involving the band have left me gobsmacked. Getit sorted out lads. Best wishes, Veitchy

Comment from marijke , 9 months later

oi,John Stewart Veitch are you the macrudie I'm looking for? Please answer if so. I've been searching you for several years now.

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