LED ZEPPELIN Wins Latest Round In "Stairway To Heaven" Copyright Battle
March 9, 2020, 3 years ago
Led Zeppelin has once again prevailed in a long-running copyright dispute over whether the UK rock band infringed Spirit's "Taurus" to create "Stairway To Heaven", reports Hollywood Reporter.
On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's decision of no copyright infringement after a jury in 2016 handed Led Zeppelin a win. Today's decision comes after the appellate court voted to re-do the trial only to have larger issues re-examined en banc, meaning before a wider panel of judges.
A 54-page decision (read here) plus concurrences will likely become a new standard in copyright infringement cases and may be presented to the Supreme Court. Among other aspects of the decision, the Ninth Circuit determines it was not in error that the jury didn't get to hear the original "Taurus" sound recording at trial. Furthermore, the appeals court elects to ditch the "inverse ratio rule," meaning the higher the degree of access to a work, the lower the bar for proving substantial similarity.
Michael Skidmore, the Trustee for deceased Spirit songwriter Randy Wolfe, sued the band in May 2014. Wolfe's "Taurus" instrumental was authored before federal law covered sound recordings. Under the 1909 Copyright Act, authors obtained copyright by making deposits of their work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Before trial, the judge determined that this meant that Wolfe's sheet music was protected and that the jury shouldn't hear unprotectable music elements in the sound recording.
Read more at Hollywood Reporter.