The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

By Steven Gimbel | Go to book overview

4
Performance and Property:
Archive.org, Authorship,
and Authenticity

PETER BRADLEY

Tapers—Grateful Dead fans who make and then share recordings of live shows—subscribe to one of the most comprehensive, grass-roots enforced, black-and-white moral systems around. Studio recordings designated ‘off-limits’ by the band are not shared while recordings made of live performances, sometimes even off the official soundboard, are shared widely. Those who break this code are ostracized. Taking Cor even asking for) money for the taped recordings is an even greater moral violation than pirating studio versions. The taping ethos suggests a new attitude towards the rights entailed by intellectual property and authorship in general.

Consider how Deadheads distinguish between performances that are band property—which it would be a moral violation to share—and performances they consider public property. The music of a studio performance is distinguished from its live performance counterpart only with respect to engineering: acoustics, post-production mixing, and interference from the audience. Artistically, studio recordings are often free from errors but the bootlegged live performances more authentic. But neither of these distinctions seem morally relevant.

Could the distinction be grounded on mutual trust and respect between a band and its fans? But is the desire of an artist enough to impose such a moral duty on me? If so, which artist? Jerry? John Perry Barlow? Or Bob Weir? For that matter, on what basis can someone own their performance?

All of these issues came to a head on November 22nd 2005 when Archive.org, without warning, blocked users from downloading all taped performances (although non-soundboard

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