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Grateful Dead backtracks on download ban

Internet Archive gets band's OK to distribute concert recordings after fans revolt.

Facing criticism from thousands of fans, the Grateful Dead appears to have backtracked on recent moves to deter people from trading free copies of concert recordings over the Internet.

After consulting with the legendary jam band, a nonprofit group that distributes the group's music online had restored the audience recordings for downloading and streaming on Thursday.

The organization, called the Internet Archive, also made available the Grateful Dead's "soundboard" recordings, which the band sells on its own site, but only for streaming.

Internet Archive had removed the recordings from its site after the Grateful Dead's business managers complained recently. The move caused an uproar among the band's fans. Thousands signed an online petition condemning the band and pledging to boycott all Grateful Dead merchandise. The crackdown appeared to be a sudden reversal by the band, which reportedly had long approved of fans trading homemade concert tapes.

The Internet Archive is taking some responsibility for the dustup, suggesting it resulted from a misunderstanding.

"We at Archive.org now realize that our mistaken attempts to move quickly were based on what we thought the Grateful Dead wanted," director Brewster Kahle said in the site's discussion forum. "For this, we apologize both to the Grateful Dead and their community."

Former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh also posted an apology of sorts on his Web site on Wednesday.

"We are musicians not businessmen and have made good and bad decisions on our journey. We do love and care about our community as you helped us make the music," he wrote in the posting. "Your concerns have been heard and I am sure are being respectfully addressed."