We've written before about trademarks and bootleg merch sold on "Shakedown Streets" at shows. The phishnet forum and Phantasy Tour message boards have been buzzing since the Dick's shows about the strange affair of a freelance contractor, Dave Anver, long active in seizing supposedly bootleg merch for promoters in the Denver area.
The Westword blog site in Denver covered the original incident which was sparked by a YouTube video and a "Stop Dave Anver" Facebook page campaign and writer Dave Herrera has returned with a long and troubling discussion of what happened that day in the lot at Dick's with a "bootleg merch bust" that somehow went very, very bad.
Herrera's article, "Phish Story: A fight on Shakedown Street left one man in stitches and another fearing for his family" is here.
The article has extensive background on illegal merch which is a must read, particularly because of its in depth look at the evolution of the Phish lot scene and extensive interviews with
Kevin Shapiro and Amy Skelton./#
Here's one thing Amy said that didn't seem to percolate through to Anver, based not only on this incident but many in Denver for decades:
"She had very specific rules for how such actions were to be handled, though. Before engaging in any type of search-and-seizure type activity, Skelton made sure those helping her with enforcement knew which merch was permissible and which wasn't. "When they got to the show, they would meet me in the merch room," she remembers. "And I always had a bag of samples. So we'd stand in the merch room with my bag of samples, which I'd throw out on the table, like, 'That is our logo. This is our name. Also, this word Gamehendge is copyrighted. You can take that, too.' We'd go through why all of the other things weren't. So I spent probably fifteen minutes before I sent the guys out there. And then I was on radio the whole time, monitoring them."
It's clear that while the legal rules and Phish's interpretation of copyright infringement were reasonable at the top, Herrera seems to question whether fine distinctions between infringing and OK (things like song title shirts, no logos etc.) actually got translated into the field when it came to "bouncer"-type private enforcers like Anver.
Disclosure: We've unfortunately had some bad experience with Dave at Phishnet/Mockingbird. Anyone remember those refrigerator magnets promoting our first edition of The Phish Companion that we handed out for free during the summer 2000 tour (photo below to jog your memory or fill in for newer fans)? Our publisher, then Miller Freeman books paid for them as part of their advertising and publicity budget we had contracted for. There was nothing infringing about the magnets, bandmembers and management had cooperated with us in fact checking the book in various parts. But Dave often seemed not to draw fine distinctions and seized magnets from one of our volunteers at the Desert Sky show in 2000.
Photo credits: top, courtesy Mark Manger, from the YouTube video of the incident; bottom, phishnet staff
#/ Update: The author informed us that he did not interview Kevin Shapiro; Kevin's quotes are taken from previous court papers seeking injunctions against bootleg merchandise sales.