Grateful Dead "reversal" on fan-recordings is a smokescreenstories about various Grateful Dead spokespeople and band-alumni making promises to reverse their attack on fan-recordings that are hosted at the the Internet Archive (these recordings were made by dedicated fans with the band's explicit blessing, and have been the core of an decades-old evangelical unpaid promotional campaign by Deadheads that has returned a gigantic fortune for the band).
However, it appears that all the talk about "communications SNAFUs" was a smokescreen for a half-assed compromise that leaves the highest-quality recordings available only as streams, meaning that they can no longer be simply downloaded from the Archive and traded on.
The spin on this is bizarre -- see below:
He said the band consented to making audience recordings available for download again, although live recordings made directly from concert soundboards, which are the legal property of the Grateful Dead, should only be made available for listening from now on.What, exactly, is the Grateful Dead's "legal property?" The media on which the recordings reside? No, those belong to the fans and/or the Internet Archive. Rather, the thing that the Grateful Dead controls is the copyrights in the performances. But they control the copyright in the non-soundboard recordings every bit as much as they control the soundboard recordings.
So why is this being characterized as the Grateful Dead changing its position? They've reversed on a minor point -- that freespace recordings may be traded -- but they've stuck to the main point: recordings made by fans with the blessing of the Dead and the admonition to share them far and wide are no longer to be shared without the explicit blessing of the band's surviving rightsholders.
It's clear why these rightsholders want this. The Grateful Dead is famous, and lots of people are interested in buying GD recordings, merchandise, and tickets to the successor band, The Dead. The Grateful Dead's fame is the direct consequence of the goodwill they exchanged with their fans when they adopted their liberal policies for recording and sharing of shows.
Now the rightsholders want it both ways: they want to profit from the goodwill that fans retain for the band due to its generosity, but they want to revise that generosity downwards. They want to change the deal so that fans continue to do just as much evangelizing, spend just as much money on shows and shirts, but get less in return.
There's a ripoff here, and it's not coming from the fans. To quote John Perry Barlow, the band's irate former lyricist who wrote an open letter objecting to this move: "How magnificently counter-productive of them. It's as if the goose who laid the golden egg had decided to commit suicide so that he could get more golden eggs." Link