Mar 28, 2017

Led Zeppelin back in the court room to defend their most iconic creation

Last year Led Zeppelin, one of the world's most iconic rock bands, found themselves in the middle of a lawsuit regarding the alleged copyright infringement in one of their most popular songs, 'Stairway to Heaven'.  Having successfully crushed these allegations of copyright infringement they are now in court again as the case plays out, this time, in the federal appeals court.

It all started in 2014 when the Claimant in these proceedings, Michael Skidmore, took the English rock band to court alleging that their most famous song 'Stairway to Heaven' was in fact copied from a song written by American Rock band 'Spirit'; the alleged copied song being Spirit's 'Taurus'.   Although a jury accepted that Jimmy Page, the guitarist and founder of Led Zeppelin, had listened to Taurus they did not believe that the songs were substantially similar, and therefore any possible inspiration did not amount to infringement. However, Mr Skidmore is not ready to let this case rest and has appealed this decision meaning that the case between the English and American Rock Bands will make its way to the 9th Circuit Federal Appeals court.

It is reported that the reason behind the appeal is because there were a number of "evidentiary errors" made during the trail that meant the jury were not able to properly assess whether the songs were substantially similar or not.  The Claimant's counsel has submitted that it is "quite clear" that Page copied 'Taurus' in the introduction to the iconic 'Stairway to Heaven' song.

Claimant's Counsel has also submitted that the Jury were not given the opportunity to listen to the "full and complete" version of Taurus which meant the Jury were not able to make a proper comparison of the two tracks. Instead, the jury were only permitted to hear "an outline of the 'Taurus' composition in the deposit copy lead sheet". Claimants counsel argued that this prejudiced their claim. In addition to this, the Claimant's argued that the court gave incorrect instructions regarding copyright law.

With this appeal, Mr Skidmore is hoping to reverse the court's decision and it will certainly be interesting to see if he achieves this or not.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or

in: Copyright, News

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