Members of the band testified in the California courtroom.
A famous song and rock band have attracted worldwide interest in a copyright lawsuit that was just decided in federal court in California in June 2016. Of course, we refer to “Stairway to Heaven” and British rock band Led Zeppelin, which was sued along with Warner Music and affiliates by the trustee of the estate of a deceased guitarist for copyright infringement.
The suit alleged that Zeppelin lifted the opening bars of rock anthem “Stairway” from the beginning of an instrumental song called “Taurus” that was written, performed and recorded by Randy Wolfe, known as Randy California, and his band Spirit. Wolfe was reportedly discovered by Jimi Hendrix. Apparently, Led Zeppelin had been an opening act for Spirit.
The jury considered testimony from members of both bands along with music experts in deciding whether the writers of “Stairway to Heaven” had access to Taurus and whether there was substantial similarity in the elements of the musical composition of the two songs.
According to the Jury Instructions filed in the case, the jury was instructed by the judge on how to apply the applicable copyright law, including in part:
As these instructions illustrate, copyright law is extremely complex and multifaceted, and it is further complicated by extensive and sometimes varying interpretations by courts across the country. The U.S. Copyright Office provides an online overview of federal copyright law.
Anyone who believes another person or business has infringed on copyrighted material should speak with an experienced intellectual property lawyer about what legal options may be available. Of course, any person or company accused of violating a copyright or facing a copyright infringement lawsuit should seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Often, intellectual property disputes like those regarding copyrights can be settled through negotiation rather than having to invest substantial money and time in court. Sometimes, though, settlement is not possible and legal counsel is required to vigorously advocate on behalf of such a party.
The attorneys of Peterson Watts Law Group, LLP, in Roseville have represented hundreds of copyright clients – both those asserting infringement and those defending against such allegations – in copyright litigation across the state of California.