The surviving members of the Grateful Dead are facing legal action from a concert filmmaker over allegations of copyright infringement.

Len Dell'Amico claims he had an agreement in place with the jam band for compensation for all video releases featuring footage he shot of the group from 1984 to 1991, with the understanding that he would retain the rights to his work.

However, Dell'Amico alleges he was cut out of a subsequent 10-year deal the rockers made in 2006 via their Grateful Dead Productions company to lease archive footage to bosses at Rhino Entertainment, a treasure trove which included his footage from tours, live broadcasts and other on-camera projects.

Former Dead stars Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and keyboardist Mickey Hart maintain that Dell'Amico completed the films as works made for hire, but the plaintiff, whose copyright registrations for the footage are pending from the U.S. Copyright Office, is seeking a declaration from a Los Angeles judge to recognise him as the owner of the footage.

He has named Rhino Entertainment executives among the defendants and is seeking damages for copyright infringement and breach of contract, and an injunction against the future distribution of the works.