Led Zeppelin and Doors to sue 'bootleg' memorabilia website

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A group of rock 'n' roll's elder statesmen have launched a legal battle against the owners of a website that sells music memorabilia and rare recordings - claiming they never gave permission for the items to be sold.

The greying musicians, including Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana and members of the Doors and the Grateful Dead, have filed a lawsuit against William Sagan, owner of Wolfgang's Vault, an online site that offers thousands of streaming audio and music performances collected over more than 30 years.

"We have never given permission for our images and material to be used in this way," Bob Weir, a guitarist and founding member 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 goodwill of our fans."

Mr Sagan apparently obtained the recordings, along with a host of other memorabilia such as T-shirts, vintage posters and pictures, following the death of the famed concert promoter, Bill Graham, who died in a helicopter crash in 1991.

Yet the musicians' lawyers claim that Mr Sagan does not have the legal right to sell the material or to promote a line of baby clothes showing the artists' names. The lawsuit, filed on Monday at a federal court in California, asked for an unspecified sum of damages and that the website's sales be suspended.

"Sagan simply doesn't have the legal rights to exploit and profit from the extraordinary success of these musicians," said Jeff Reeves, one of their lawyers. "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 authorised to purchase these materials and who has absolutely no connection to the artists or their music."

According to the lawsuit, Mr Sagan obtained the material three years ago from Clear Channel Communications for $5m. That company had previously obtained it when it acquired SFX Entertainment, a company to which Mr Graham's estate had sold the items following the promoter's death. Mr Sagan's company yesterday failed to respond to queries. The Bloomberg news service said Mr Sagan, based in Minnesota, had said he had not been served with the lawsuit and would not comment further.

In another statement, the guitarist Carlos Santana said: "Bill was a close friend to me and the Santana Band for many years, and I know that what Sagan is doing would go against everything he believed in."