Saturday, November 26, 2005 ends downloading of Dead shows and pulls all SBDs

On November 22nd, posted this message:

The Internet Archive has worked with tapers, tape traders, funders, admins, and over 1000 bands to build a great non-commercial music library that is freely accessible. Technically and policy-wise, it has been invigorating as you can probably appreciate. We have made changes in the past and we will make changes again.

Following the policies of the Grateful Dead and the Dead communities we have provided non-commercial access to thousands of great concerts. 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. The full collection will remain safe in the Archive for preservation purposes.

Here is the plan:

Audience recordings are available in streaming format (m3u).

Soundboard recordings are not available.

Additionally, the Grateful Dead recordings will be separated from the Live Music Archive into its own collection. The metadata and reviews for all shows and recordings will remain available.

We appreciate that this change will be a surprise and upset many of you, but please channel reactions in ways that you genuinely think will be productive. If we keep the bigger picture in mind that there are many experiments going on right now, and experiments working well, we can build on the momentum that tape trading started decades ago.

Working together we can keep non-commercial sharing part of our world. Thank you for helping find balances that work for all involved.

-brewster Digital Librarian and Founder
-Matt Vernon Volunteer GD Archivist

Beyond this statement, I have been unable to find out any facts behind this move. Rumors on the net range all the way from Phil, Bobby, and/or Deborah Koons ‘selling out’ to Grateful Dead Productions & Merchandizing struggling and firing Ramrod (among others). It has also been reported that there is a project in the works with iTunes.

I really hope there is more information released soon because, so far, this has really polarized the online trading community. I have never read more upset posts about the Dead, ever. Personally, I need more information before forming an opinion. There are many unanswered questions and concerns but, for now, I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

While some have posted otherwise, it appears that the discontinuation of hosting SBDs has only taken place on There are still other resources:

For those who are really upset, there have been two online petitions started (here and here).

It has also been suggested you send your thoughts via snailmail

P.O. Box 1065
San Rafael, CA 94915

Grateful Dead Merchandise
P.O. Box X
Novato, CA 94948

I discourage following the suggestion of calling Grateful Dead Productions at their toll free number.

While we wait for further details, here's a posting from July of this year:

IMPORTANT: In 2005, 2 fresh communications were received by Grateful Dead Productions intends that SBD material for a date matching a commercially released date must not be traded. -Diana

Received by the team, 7/8/05:
"Referring to your offering of Grateful Dead's 07-04-89 RichStadium/Buffalo show, although your download is not the commercialversion recently released by Grateful Dead Productions ("Truckin' Up ToBuffalo - offered as both DVD and soundtrack CDs), the standard etiquette when a show is commercially released is for traders to stopoffering the show in soundboard... form. Therefore, werespectfully request that you remove this show from your offerings."We appreciate the service provides to the public, and hopeand trust that you can understand our position."

On 7/11, GDP clarified that the 7/8 message's "soundboard or audience" mention was mistaken:"Dear etree,"Thank you for promptly removing the show discussed below. I'm afraid Imade an error when I said that traders should stop offering _audience_recordings after a show has been commercially released. We only askthat _soundboard_ recordings stop being circulated after a show has beencommercially released."

***Previous comments, besides the STATEMENT TO MP3 SITE OPERATORS

***following was at

NEW_DOCUMENTS/trading/ circa 2001-2002

RE: OUR LONG STANDING POLICY REGARDING TAPE TRADING Dear Dead Heads,We have a simple taping policy. It's okay with us to tape live Grateful Dead performances and trade them freely, so long as no money changes hands. You send 'em a blank, they make you a tape, and vise-versa. As soon as money enters in on any level, it's a commercial transaction; and with our music, decisions on commerce are ours and ours alone.Thank you,Grateful Dead***For the record, earlier fan questions prompted a few other responses below.Anything in them is presumably superseded by the 2005 stance above.

***Elaboration 1:From: GDP Intellectual Property Division To:>Sent: Monday, November 06, 2000 12:24 PMSubject: Fwd: taping concern> Hi, thanks for your concern. We have no problem with you trading> audience tapes of any show, released or not. But you cannot sell any> of the music, and you cannot trade tapes of a released CD. Like, you> can't make a tape of a Dick's Pick and then trade that. But if it's> an audience tape of the same show, trade away. I hope that answers> your question. Happy trading...>> Jan Simmons

Here is a letter from Jan at GDP that reiterates the policy we have always observed. I know there have been other letters floating around which contradict this one, but, obviously, this is the one we'll be using from here on ;-)Here is the exact letter from Jan at GDP...."This question seems to be coming up a lot. As I told someone else ecently:Tapers are free to trade their old sound boards of shows, so long as they don't trade the re-mastered versions that we put out.Thanks for checking,Jan

And here’s a posting from 1999:

Grateful Dead Productions: Non-commercial MP3s OK
By Barry Willis

May 9, 1999 — Our report two weeks ago on Grateful Dead Productions and its dispute with MP3 sites was tainted by some bits of misinformation. Dave Rosenberg, webmaster at, has pointed out that his site did not receive a cease and desist order, but was asked to remove any Grateful Dead logo. Rosenberg was appreciative of the publicity the issue has received. "Thank you for publishing and making known the problems Deadabase is currently facing from Grateful Dead Productions," he wrote.

For its part, Grateful Dead Productions claims that it is going after only those sites that are exploiting Grateful Dead recordings for commercial purposes---such as the selling of banner advertising. Non-commercial sharing of music files will be encouraged in the same tradition as the sharing of analog tape recordings has always been, according to Dennis McNally of GDP's publicity office. McNally stated that, now known as AstroJams, had sold advertising on its site.

In an e-mail to Stereophile editor John Atkinson, McNally complained that the article did not note "that the people at Deadabase . . . had sold considerable advertising on their site and were thus using Grateful Dead's music as a way of profiting. We object to that, and always have." While AstroJams' operators may be technically correct that they haven’t made a profit, the selling of advertising is definitely a commercial venture.

GDP CEO Peter McQuaid replied to an April 22 request for clarification on the issue with a short fax, dated April 23, that is quoted almost verbatim in my report---a simple statement that GDP was in the process of forming a policy on MP3, which they finalized a few days later on the 29th. GDP 's MP3 policy has been circulated on the Internet, as follows:

The Grateful Dead and our managing organizations have long encouraged the purely non-commercial exchange of music taped at our concerts and those of our individual members.

That a new medium of distribution has arisen---digital audio files being traded
over the Internet---does not change our policy in this regard.

Our stipulations regarding digital distribution are
merely extensions of those long-standing principles and they are as follows: No
commercial gain may be sought by websites offering digital files of our music,
whether through advertising, exploiting databases compiled from their traffic,
or any other means.

All participants in such digital exchange acknowledge
and respect the copyrights of the performers, writers, and publishers of the

This notice should be clearly posted on all sites
engaged in this activity.

We reserve the ability to withdraw our sanction of
non-commercial digital music should circumstances arise that compromise our
ability to protect and steward the integrity of our work.


Blogger Ben said...

Outstanding research. Based upon the information you provided, what the Dead organization did last week was clearly a major change in policy, not only around the trading of AUD recordings, but around the trading on SBD recordings as well.

When one changes a policy that had been in place for decades, you would think that an explanation behind the policy change would be in order. Not so in this case. At least so far...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005  

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