Thursday, December 01, 2005

Grateful Dead Concerts Available for Free Download

Just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday archive.org removed from its free download section all mp3s of Live Grateful Dead concerts. Almost immediately some fans of the Dead began an online "boycott the Dead" petition. The petition demanded the return of availability the free mp3, a sentiment that is supported by one of the Dead's (now deceased) founders Jerry Garcia who was "fond of saying that once his band was done with a performance, the audience could have it."

Archive.org quickly reversed their policy and has made the files available again so all you deadheads out there can share your favorite performances with one another again. Archive.org has shown a commitment to protecting the non-live performance Dead recordings on the site stating, "While all of the band's live audience recordings -- and there are thousands -- are once again available for free download, soundboard recordings will now be available only in streaming format." This seems a fair compromise, and brings us to a discussion.

It is certainly fair to argue that fans want to be able to share the sounds of their favorite bands in order to promote them. There are many legitimate reasons for file sharing, just as there were of tape trading. We all want to increase exposure, and in the long run help our favorite bands earn a living by expanding their paying audience, of the things and bands we like. And the fans in this case had a point. The Dead's frontman had stated that the Live performances belonged to the audience to share after the show was over. I also think the fans behaved appropriately. Instead of defending file sharing generally, they cited reasons for sharing of particular files while asking for a boycott of other particular files which have a cost associated with them until the first group of files were made free. In other words, the fans used the marketplace to encourage the band to offer some material for free while allowing other types to be have a charge associated with them. The fans also seemed to take the intentions of the band, rather than the website, into consideration as a part of their reasoning. They didn't set it as a general principle, but as a particular occurance. All around I think it was an interesting display of the marketplace.

This guy on the other hand, who is trying to help people download streaming audio, seems a little less than on the right side of the argument. As I said, there are legitimate reasons for file sharing, but this behavior doesn't appear to meet the smell test.
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