Jambands To Teach Copyright Law

The heated discussions concerning live music sharing happening here and elsewhere in the online arena recently led me to this excellent and extremely thorough case-study/article published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. It’s the definitive statement on the subject of taping, trading, file-sharing, music fans, and how they all relate to copyright law. It’s a fascinating insight into this unique world that few really understand. Unlike the recent online debates, it’s 70+ pages from a pleasantly unbiased perspective with fully documented notes for the assertions.

There are obviously many passionate opinions on the subject and this post is not intended to inflame or start another debate, but is instead to hopefully inform and foster more understanding to both sides of an extremely complicated issue.
Cheers, Phil


By Mark F. Schultz†
Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University School of Law.
published by the Berkely Technology Law Journal

Among fans of popular music, there is one group that is far more likely than most to respect copyright law. These fans scrupulously observe re-strictions bands impose on the copying and distribution of their music. They keep track of these rules and make sure their fellow fans are aware of them. If they find fellow fans stepping out of line, they quickly scold them. They even cooperate with bands’ lawyers to enforce the rules. Who are these responsible, rule-loving fans who embrace authority? None other than the fans of the Grateful Dead and their descendants in the jamband community.3 Notwithstanding their stereotypical image as laidback types with little taste for rules or authority, jamband fans are extremely suppor-tive of the rights of artists to control the copying and distribution of their work. Therein lies a story that is interesting in its own right, but which also tells us a great deal about law, social norms, and persuading people to comply with copyright law.

The jamband community is a vital and growing movement in popular music that includes some of the top-grossing touring bands in the country. The original jamband was the Grateful Dead, but the label now applies to bands from many genres—rock, jazz, country, folk, bluegrass, and even gospel—and includes major acts like Phish, Widespread Panic, and the String Cheese Incident. What defines a jamband more than anything else is its policy regarding intellectual property: jambands allow their fans to record live shows and to copy and distribute the recordings freely. Jam-bands have enjoyed great commercial success in distributing music via the internet in forms that other bands have not dared to try. They explicitly attribute their success to the bond of trust they have with their fans.

Jambands can trust their fans because the fan community has developed social norms against copying musical works that jambands have designated as “off limits.” These restricted works typically comprise studio recordings or certain live releases sold commercially. The community enforces these norms internally and externally, sometimes even reporting violations to the bands’ attorneys. The jamband community has also developed its own file-sharing applications which respect copyright holders’ rights.

Complete article here