Wolfgang's Vault Files Countersuit Over Archives
A rock archive Web site is fighting back against a copyright lawsuit brought by some of music's most notable classic rock acts, dragging two major record labels into the battle.A rock archive Web site is fighting back against a copyright lawsuit brought by some of music's most notable classic rock acts, dragging two major record labels into the battle.
In December, Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, Santana and the Doors sued Wolfgang's Vault claiming that the Bill Sagan-owned Web site violates intellectual property rights by selling merchandise and streaming concert archives belonging to the musicians.
In response, Wolfgang's Vault attorney Michael Elkin recently filed a 40-page counterclaim against the musicians and their labels, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group.
"Far from being about bootlegging, consumer confusion or infringement of any sort, this case is actually a blatant attempt by two of the largest record labels in the world -- using artists as a front -- to secure new income streams and destroy a legitimate business," the suit says.
It also alleges that the two record companies unsuccessfully sought to negotiate licenses to the concert footage, and when that was not possible, "conspired with each other to concoct fictitious legal claims in an effort to appropriate for themselves the use of musical recordings through an abuse of this judicial process."
The lineage and ownership of the concert recordings figures to be a contentious topic in the case. A trial date has not been set.
The recordings in question were taped by legendary concert promoter Bill Graham at the Fillmore West and Winterland in San Francisco and the Fillmore East in New York. Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991, and his archive was sold to SFX Entertainment, which was sold to Clear Channel Entertainment in 2000.
Sagan acquired the assets from Clear Channel in 2003 and named his Web site after the original promoter. In December, the musicians, represented by Jeff Reeves, claimed that the IP rights to the concert footage couldn't be transferred without permission from the artists. Further, they allege that a federal anti-bootlegging statute disallows the broadcast of concert footage without artist consent.
Responding to the suit, Wolfgang's Vault denies most of the allegations and offers 28 affirmative defenses, including lack of jurisdiction and standing, abandonment and forfeiture of the plaintiffs' IP, misuse of copyright and trademark, fraud, statute of limitations and the unconstitutionality of the plaintiffs' claims.