Classic Rockers Send Their Lawyers After Wolfgang's Vault

from the rock-and-roll dept

About a year ago, I saw a presentation by the founder of a company called Wolfgang’s Vault, where he described his plans to digitize the huge collection of classic rock concerts he obtained in buying rock promoter Bill Graham’s archives. In the presentation, we were told that in purchasing the archives, Wolfgang’s Vault now owned all the rights to the content, and could do whatever they wanted with it — including streaming audio, downloads as well as selling merchandise around the content. For a while, the site was just selling t-shirts and concert posters, but a few months back they finally opened up the vault so that you could (freely) stream audio of a large number of concerts (mostly from the 70s and early 80s).

However, it appears that the folks at Wolfgang’s Vault may have exaggerated the rights that they bought from the Graham estate — at least that’s the claim of a bunch of classic rock legends, including the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Led Zeppelin and Carlos Santana, who are suing the company for using the material and selling merchandise without their permission. In the end, this may come down to whatever contracts Graham signed with the bands concerning what he was allowed to do with the content — though, “streaming it on the web” probably wasn’t covered by these contracts considering they were signed at least a decade before the web even existed. Of course, it’s amusing to note that the last lawsuit involving Bill Graham’s Archives put them on the flipside of the intellectual property world, as they tried (and failed) to sue a publisher for using images of Grateful Dead concert posters in a book about the band without first getting permission. In that case, the court noted that the use was covered under fair use rules, despite the commercial nature of the book. Looks like their aggressive moves concerning intellectual property ownership may be coming back to bite the company now.

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Comments on “Classic Rockers Send Their Lawyers After Wolfgang's Vault”

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teknosapien (profile) says:

The Grateful Dead always stated

That you can do anything what you want with our music once were done with it, but you can not sell it. There are countless interviews with Garcia stating as much. Garcia being gone and they should no longer be suing in the name of the Grateful Dead since that name recognition actually belongs with the group that included Jerry Garcia. Now it seems that the rest of the dead organization has sold out and joined the Republican Party.
I don’t believe that this would have held any water in the past. trading bootlegs and later streaming music was encouraged by the band for over 30 years. It was the fans that promoted the band not some company.
Now they all of a sudden want to have control over what they gave away?
Garcia must be turning over in his grave.
If they win would this allow the countless number of fans will start invoicing the remaining band members for past marketing of the Grateful Dead? I know in the 25 + years I toured I turned many a person on to the band with the free tape or picture and at times the miracle ticket.

AMP says:

Re: The Grateful Dead always stated

1. The corporate entity that is the Grateful Dead still exists with or without Garcia. They still put out CDs and DVDs under Dicks Picks and the From the Vault series. If they are still selling products under the Grateful Dead name, then the Grateful Dead still exists as an organization.

2. Being a long time fan of the Grateful Dead, I realize it is a very sensitive topic for people when the GD starts asking for money for something, but they are a business. Always have been always will be.

3. The issue here has nothing to do with the trading of live dead shows. It has everything to do with what rights were transferred when Graham’s vault was sold.

4. There are likely shows in this “vault” that coupled potentially become live releases under the Dicks Picks effort or video that could be releases on DVD by the Band. Allowing this to be freely disseminated over the net would hurt those future sales. And regardless of what you think, this band has and will always protect that, as is their right.

John W says:

Re: The Grateful Dead always stated

Whoa, whoa, whoa…”the rest of the dead organization has sold out and joined the Republican Party”?

Why does anyone have to pull crap like that? It seems like every post has at least one comment where someone will find a negative thing and attribute it to the other political party, even though it’s not a political issue and doesn’t in any way relate to a political party.

Why can’t anyone comment without bashing a political party? And why single out the Republicans? There is so much blame on all sides of the aisle that it’s pointless to make such a dig. Grow up and stick to the topic.

fred mcmurry says:

Re: Re: And why single out the Republicans?

Because they suck dead dog dicks, that’s why. All politicians everywhere are lying whores, but I’ve never seen or heard of bigger scumbags than are currently running around, draped in flags, killing brown people for their oil. Why don’t you grow up, John W, and look around, open your eyes.

fred mcmurry says:

Some really great shows streamed there, been liste

There are some really interesting shows there by some pretty danged obscure artists, no way you’d ever find these artists performing live sets – especially from that era – anywhere other than this site. Sure, you can find a million copies of SRV shows (though I’d never before seen this Austin show) but where in the world are you ever going to find a live performance by Phil Collins? (And why would you want to? Are you insane?)

Really though, some great stuff there. Check out Robert Plant before his voice got worn down, and it’s their first American shows, and they are just some new band, they’re not some Legend, their just musicians – fun. There’s a 1982 Blasters show – find THAT somewhere else.

JW says:

But Bill Graham covered his butt

And so did Wolfgang’s Vault. They are not selling downloads, the are only streaming non-downloadable media the rights of which are clearly covered by the contracts signed and applicable laws.

Seems most likely that the artists who are filing suit are simply interested in staking a claim on any future money to made if they are in fact offered for sale. Interesting to note that one of the participating plaintiffs are members of The Doors who never appear in any of the material that Wolfgang’s Vault own!

Toad says:

The Grateful Dead always stated

Since the band has always promoted free sharing of their music, it would be great if they would sanction or even set up themselves a giant database of all the shows that we could all tap into whenever we want to stream a little Dead. (I am currently doing this just now as I take lunch while at work.) Check out “Cheesebase” for an example of what this could look like. But being a fan of the music, I would love to be able to customize it for my own enjoyment – like organizing all the shows played on my birthday or the first live performance of all the songs with the word “love” in them – and even put these customizations on a CD or tape to give to a friend for a birthday present or to play in my car on road trips. As far as the other artifacts like t-shirts and posters goes, I think Mr. Sagan should be able to sell the existing hardcopies (although I think a museum – a great big huge 40 tractor trailer full of stuff size museum – would be better.) the right to reproduce them is a bit trickier and perhaps the artists who designed the posters as well as the artists represented could listen to ol’ Neil Young and put “a little love and affection, in everything you [they] do.”

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