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Wolfgang's Vault responds to suit filed by Grateful Dead, others

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Wolfgang's Vault responds to suit filed by Grateful Dead, others

December 27, 2006 10:39 AM

by Tjames Madison

LiveDaily Contributor


The owner of a rock memorabilia website has responded to accusations raised against him by a lineup of music icons that includes Grateful Dead Productions, Carlos Santana (music), The Doors (music) and Led Zeppelin (music).

William Sagan, who owns and operates wolfgangsvault.com, is being accused by the music legends of unlawfully reproducing and selling vintage concert memorabilia and illegal copies of unauthorized trademarked items belonging to the plaintiffs.

"The lawsuit has nothing to do with artists' rights and everything to do with others in the industry seeking to seize profits and shakedown Wolfgang's Vault and its owner, Bill Sagan," said Sagan's attorney, Michael Elkin, in a press release.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in San Francisco, seeks to stop Sagan from selling these materials in what the lawsuit claims is a violation of federal and state laws.

Sagan acquired the memorabilia when he purchased some of the late concert promoter Bill Graham's assets from Clear Channel Entertainment, which had purchased Graham's company following its founder's death. Graham's legendary archives included concert posters, T-shirts and other items which the lawsuit claims were never authorized for sale.

"We believe while this lawsuit will attract a lot of headlines it has no basis or fact in law whatsoever," Elkin said. "Wolfgang's Vault bought all of this decades' old material legally, paid their rightful owner and own all the rights necessary to conduct its business. We fully expect to be victorious in the court of law."

The attorneys representing the rock legends claimed earlier that Sagan never purchased the right to sell or distribute the memorabilia when he acquired Graham's former assets.

"Sagan simply doesn't have the legal rights to exploit and profit from the extraordinary success of these musicians," said attorney Jeff Reeves, who represents the musicians in a press release. "This memorabilia was created in the first place for the purposes of promoting concerts and as gifts for fans and concert crew. Graham himself did not have the right to sell, reproduce or otherwise exploit these materials as a promoter, and neither does Sagan, who was not authorized to purchase these materials and who has absolutely no connection to the artists or their music."

Sagan's attorneys argue that the acquisition of Graham's archives included the implicit right to dispose or sell of the material as the new owner saw fit.

"The industry is never happy when fans can get music for free. Yet millions of dollars were spent for Mr. Graham's archive, and that purchase price included not just the photography, posters and handbills but also the recordings, as invaluable and as irreplaceable as they all are. Furthermore the purchase allowed the company the rights to open the archive as they deemed fit. Wolfgang's Vault is determined that the vault remains open, and intends to do everything in its power to keep it that way," added Elkin.

"We have never given permission for our images and material to be used in this way," said the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir in the release. "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."

Recently, Sagan bid the winning amount--$3.8 million--in an October bankruptcy auction to acquire Tower.com, the web address of West Sacramento, CA-based Tower Records, which filed bankruptcy this year and is now out of business in the US.

The deal is currently in limbo after Tower filed court papers later in October, claiming Sagan was trying to back out of the deal or renegotiate the terms.

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