Last night Phish postponed a concert.

It was to be Phish’s first international appearance in 13 years, but the weather in Toronto conspired against the band. An alternative date was scheduled. Fans were displaced. Mellows were harshed.

On any other day, this would have been the big story in the Phish world. Yet, as I caught up on Twitter this morning, a very different story dominated. The story of MKDevo: the prolific, albeit wholly unauthorized, Phish concert videographer who’s YouTube channel was terminated last night by Phish Inc.

http://www.youtube.com/user/mkdevo

This is a blow to the Phish community. I know I will miss MKDevo’s channel and have always admired his videos, which must have represented hundreds (or more) of hours of work. MKDevo posted his own thoughts on the matter. You can read them here: http://forum.phish.net/thread.php?thread=1373467929

“We can speculate all day as to why I was shut down. But none of us know for sure” -MKDevo

Let’s consider for a moment the reasons Phish may have wanted to take down MKDevo’s concert footage.

-Phish felt MKDevo’s videos hurt their sales
-Phish felt MKDevo’s videos hurt their brand
-Phish felt obligated to defend its copyrights

I don’t think Phish considered MKDevo’s videos a threat to their sales nor do I think they were concerned about their brand. After all, the band has always allowed audience audio recordings and AUDs have only served to help Phish’s business and brand.

I’ll go ahead and speculate, based on my experience working for a company that is constantly defending its own intellectual property, that Phish felt obligated to protect their copyrights. MKDevo’s YouTube channel had swelled to over 12,000 subscribers. If Phish simply did nothing, they risked weakening future copyright claims against unauthorized concert videos. To me, this is the most plausible explanation. Especially now that Phish is very much in the business of selling official video directly to its audience.

While I understand Phish’s position here, I think the organization needs to evolve on the issue of audience video recordings. I’ll call them, “vAUDs”.

Phish concerts have become increasingly visual experiences. Just as AUDs capture what it’s like to hear a Phish show from the audience, vAUDs capture what it was like to see a Phish show from the audience. Just as AUDs inspired my generation to see Phish live, undoubtedly MKDevo’s vAUDs inspired a whole new generation to go see Phish.

The presence of AUDs doesn’t stop me from downloading official releases from LivePhish, nor did MKDevo’s vAUDs stop me from buying LivePhish webcasts. AUDs & vAUDs compliment the official releases. Each are valuable to the fans and to the organization. They can (and should) coexist.

However, I don’t blame Phish for doing what they did yesterday. If anything, their hand may have been forced. Most vAUDs sync audience video with official LivePhish audio releases.

http://phish.com/#/faq/taping-guidelines

“Videotaping is not allowed. Recently the practice has grown, and videos are too often synced with unauthorized copies of official releases. Copying or trading video violates the spirit if not the letter of this policy. And you do not want to violate or in any way provoke the spirit.”

We may have “provoked the spirit” here and forced an otherwise laissez faire Phish Inc to act defensively. My hope is that, one day, Phish embraces the importance of vAUDs and outlines clear guidelines on how we can capture and distribute concert video in a way that benefits both the fans and the organization.