The Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana, Led Zeppelin and the Doors gave numerous legendary performances in San Francisco in their ’60s and ’70s heyday, but those acts are saying a concert archive and their images are being misappropriated by a new owner.
Members of those bands and their estates filed suit in San Francisco Monday against William Sagan, who operates the Web site wolfgangsvault.com, through which he is promoting and selling vintage concert memorabilia items, copies of the memorabilia and streaming concert recordings.
Sagan’s Web site, in the news recently for streaming recordings of concerts presented by the late Bill Graham, has been offering reproductions of vintage concert posters, hundreds of T-shirts bearing images of the posters and a new line of baby clothing featuring artists’ names and trademarks. The plaintiffs also contend Sagan is illegally streaming the concert recordings and is offering to “license” these recordings to other parties.
He acquired the memorabilia when he purchased certain Graham assets from Clear Channel Entertainment, which acquired Graham’s concert promotion company. Graham’s archives contained millions of promotional items and personal memorabilia, such as vintage concert posters and T-shirts that were never authorized for sale.
Lawsuit contends the memorabilia was created to promote concerts and/or as gifts for fans and concert crew. Graham did not have the right to sell, reproduce or otherwise exploit these materials as a promoter, therefore neither does Sagan. Handbills and posters for shows at the Fillmore were customarily given for free to attendees.
The plaintiffs are seeking the seizure and return of the recordings, damages and profits Sagan has made plus a permanent injunction barring him from selling items or streaming recordings. (He’s not charging for streaming music.) They are asking for a jury trial.
Artists are represented by Jeff Reeves and Ashlie Beringer, lawyers with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
“We have never given permission for our images and material to be used in this way,” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead said in a statement. “What Sagan is doing is stealing. He is stealing what is most important to us — our work, our images and our music — and is profiting from the good will of our fans.”
Santana, also in a statement, praised Graham as a man of great integrity. “I know that what Sagan is doing would go against everything he believed in.”