The Grateful Dead and the Internet Archive debacle

The Grateful Dead and the Internet Archive debacle

The Grateful Dead are often held up as an example of what wonderful things can happen when a fan base comes to mean more to a band than a record exec. The band is famous for its long-lasting drug-induced “Wall of Sound” tours. The Dead Heads were often treated at these concerts to 20+ minute extended versions of their favorite songs. Some fans were upset that all this music was going unrecorded—even today, it’s hard to buy a “legitimate” copy of anything but the most “vanilla” Dead recordings. Thankfully, the Dead didn’t mind fans bringing along a tape recorder and distributing their recordings. Far from allowing the RIAA to persecute music sharers, the Dead actually cordoned off a part of the stage for these fans to set up recording equipment! The mind reels.

However, a few days ago I heard that the Internet Archive, which had been hosting scores of these fan-made recordings, was sent a Cease & Desist Letter and removed the “infringing files”. However, now there is good news—several of the band members (including the bassist) have rallied to the IA’s defense, claiming that they had nothing to do with the C and D and in fact use the IA themselves! I want to focus in on something said by Phil Leash, the aforementioned bassist: “I was not part of this decision making process...I have enjoyed using and found it invaluable during the writing of my book”. Here is another clear cut example of how an “illegal” online archive has enabled cultural research—which is vital if we are ever to learn more about who we are.



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Comment from: Sad Hippie [Visitor]

12/02/05 @ 06:46
This is such a slap in the face to Jerry's memory and to John Perry Barlow, who besides being one of the lyricists for the Dead is a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that has fought tooth and nail to keep the internet free and open, created the notion of "creative commons" and helped establish the internet archive.

This is Bob Weir's doing, not Phil Lesh's.
Being that Bob was raised in Atherton, Ca., an enclave for the superrich next to Palo Alto (Larry Ellison lives in Atherton), Bob is just coming home to roost.

Many hippies would like to think that because the Dead made the music that they love, that the Dead are hippies too. That might have been the case for Jerry and Phil (an artist with an honorary PhD from Stanford), but Bob was born with a diamond-encrusted silver spoon up his rectum. Of course, they were all wealthy because of the band, but they were artists first and foremost. I know a few folks that know Bob, including somebody from RatDog, his solo band. Bob Weir is and always was a spoiled rich kid for whom this whole "strange trip" always was about the money. He has the arrogance to match. Of course now that they are taking a hit on concert tickets, they (Bob) are trying to monetize their recordings.

As is, Bob Weir is just milking the last of the Dead legacy dry, and touring with Jerry "sound alikes" as opposed to really moving forward with his music. He could easily live for years on end on the money he has and never feel a pinch or keep on making a name for himself as an artist with current art. He'd rather
rest on his often coked-out (this I say from talking to folks that know) ass and rehash old songs that will never be the same because Jerry isn't alive to give those songs (even Bob's songs) their magic. He just doesn't have the creative juice to be original and relevant anymore, if he ever did. Without Jerry's tutelage, it's not obvious he would have lasted long enough in public memory to have the option of pissing on his fans 30 something years later.

Bob betrayed his fans years ago, and only now they are catching on.

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Matt Barton is an English professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He is an advocate of free software, wikis, and the Creative Commons. He also studies and writes about videogames and computing history. Matt also has blogs at Armchair Arcade, Gameology, and Kairosnews.