LED ZEPPELIN – New “Stairway To Heaven” Trial Ordered In Copyright Lawsuit
September 28, 2018, 10 months ago
My Journal Courier is reporting that a U.S. appeals court has ordered a new trail in a lawsuit accusing Led Zeppelin of copying an obscure 1960s instrumental for the intro to its classic 1971 rock anthem "Stairway To Heaven."
A federal court jury in Los Angeles two years ago found Led Zeppelin did not steal the famous riff from the song "Taurus" by the band Spirit. But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the lower court judge provided erroneous jury instructions that misled jurors about copyright law central the suit. It sent the case back to the court for another trial.
Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, filed the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin in 2015.
Jurors returned their verdict for Led Zeppelin after a five-day trial at which band members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant testified. Page and Plant, who wrote the "Stairway" lyrics, said their creation was an original, and in several hours of often-animated and amusing testimony, described the craft behind one of rock's best-known songs.
The jury found "Stairway to Heaven" and "Taurus" were not substantially similar, according the 9th Circuit ruling.
But U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner failed to advise jurors that while individual elements of a song such as its notes or scale may not qualify for copyright protection, a combination of those elements may if it is sufficiently original, 9th Circuit Judge Richard Paez said.
Klausner also wrongly told jurors that copyright does not protect chromatic scales, arpeggios or short sequences of three notes, the 9th Circuit panel found.
"This error was not harmless as it undercut testimony by Skidmore's expert that Led Zeppelin copied a chromatic scale that had been used in an original manner," Paez said.
The panel also found another jury instruction misleading.
Francis Malofiy, an attorney for Skidmore, said in a statement his client faced "unfair rulings at the trial court level" and looked forward "to the challenge of a fair fight."
"Today, we are proud that three esteemed jurists from the 9th Circuit recognized the battle that we fought and the injustice that we faced," he said.