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Deadheads Wanna Know Who Owns '60s Concert Footage

Publication Date: 
December 18, 2008
Daily Journal
Craig Anderson

Lecturer in Law and Executive Director of the Fair Use Project Anthony Falzone is quoted in the Daily Journal about the resolution of a copyright infringement complaint involving several famous rock musicians:

A two-year-old copyright infringement complaint featuring some of the world's most famous musicians, two big-name law firms, legendary promoter Bill Graham and a Minnesota entrepreneur may soon end in a quiet coda.

The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana and The Doors sued Wolfgang's Vault, a Web site that was selling copies of memorabilia and streaming old concert footage of the bands acquired from Graham's estate after the promoter died in 1991.

The legal battle, pitting legal heavyweights Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for the bands and Winston & Strawn for Web site owner William Sagan, has been heated and contentious. Sagan even sued the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir for libel after the band member accused him of stealing.

But the drama appears to be ending quietly. All of the artists' claims over the old memorabilia were dismissed in October in a resolution whose terms were not disclosed and the libel claim against Weir was dismissed last month.


Anthony Falzone, a Stanford Law School professor who directs the Fair Use Project at the university's Center for Internet and Society, said he is not surprised the claims regarding old concert posters and tickets have been dismissed.

Wolfgang Vault's lawyer Elkin previously argued that the right of first sale protects the resale of merchandise produced by Graham's company from copyright infringement allegations. In a court filing, he noted that Graham himself sold merchandise related to performances he promoted back in the 1960s.

Falzone agrees with Elkin's legal argument. "You get to buy and sell used books," he said. "You can buy and sell used concert posters."

He said Graham's old concert footage is a more interesting legal question because the streaming video available on Wolfgang's Vault "could present a legitimate copyright case."


Falzone said he doubts the bands or the record labels really want the memorabilia or concert videos removed.

"They don't want it taken down," he said. "They want a cut of the revenue. They probably should have figured this out before taking all those depositions."