It took 11 months for the music of the original Woodstock to make it onto six sides of vinyl. Now, double-click 30 years: Epic Records plans to have a live two-disc Woodstock '99 set and accompanying video in stores on Sept. 14, less than two months after the event.
But digital pirates are way ahead.
Before the three-day festival was over on July 25, technologically facile fans had converted live pay-per-view transmissions into near-CD-quality copies of performances by bands such as Korn, Live, Tragically Hip, and Rage Against the Machine.
As of Monday, several hundred bootlegged CDs and videos could be found among the items up for auction on the Internet sites eBay, Yahoo and Amazon.com.
Most of the items involving Woodstock '99 sounds and sights were yanked by eBay after copyright holders objected, according to company spokesman Kevin Pursglove. The site doesn't screen everything that is put up for bid, he added. With 2.6 million items on sale at a time and 300,000 added daily, there are too many to monitor, he said.
More than 100 Woodstock bootlegs were on the block Monday at Yahoo. A Philadelphian known as "jobeno8" offered CDs of performances by Bush, Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit for $8 each. Tim Brady, executive producer of Yahoo Inc., said that no copyright holders had complained yet, but that Yahoo would be ready to cancel the auctions if they did.
At Amazon.com, the handful of Woodstock '99 bootlegs included a 90-minute video of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' performance ($12.99 plus shipping) and the Dave Matthews Band's set ($52.05).
People were able to run the pay-per-view telecast through their VCRs, which could be hooked up to recordable compact disc players that preserved 80 or so minutes of music at a time. Or, if the telecast was recorded onto their computer hard drives, they could convert the files to the MP3 technology that allows for Internet transmission of digital-quality music.
"It's a phenomenon for which I don't think there is any precedent," said Michael Goldberg, whose SonicNet, an Internet music network, covered the event. "It started with cheap video cameras and DAT recorders, and now, with the advent of lightweight, relatively cheap MiniDisc recorders the size of cigarette packs, people can make digital documentation of anything. And with MP3 technology, the Internet now provides a way of taking all that music and making it instantly available."
New York State Police turned to the Internet for help tracking down vandals who trashed the Woodstock '99 site. But their use of news photos without permission has raised other legal issues. The state police posted 14 photographs on their Web site, including 10 shot by Associated Press photographers. The wire service protested as soon as it learned of the unauthorized use. The photos show concertgoers breaking into pay phones, tearing down a three-mile-long "Peace Wall," looting a vendor's truck and robbing an automated teller machine. The police ask the public for any additional photos and details of the identities of people shown. "We have two concerns--violation of copyright and the journalistic separation from law enforcement," said Sam Boyle, AP New York City Bureau chief. Glenn Valle, chief counsel for the state police, said his review indicated that there may not be an issue of copyright infringement. "It was material that was already published," he said.