Aug 19, 2016

Successful Case Still Leaves Led Zeppelin Counting the Cost

We have previously reported, and indeed it has been reported globally, on the copyright case brought against Led Zeppelin in Los Angeles. Led Zeppelin were successful defending the claim for copyright infringement but have now failed in a bid to recover their legal costs, leaving the band approximately £620,000 out of pocket.

The copyright action was brought on behalf of the estate of the late Randy Wolfe, a guitarist with 1970's band Spirit. The case centred around the opening riffs to Led Zeppelin's famous 1971 song Stairway to Heaven. The estate of Mr Wolfe claimed that this had been stolen from Spirit's song 'Taurus'. Taurus was a short instrumental song that had been released 3 years earlier.

The claim was unsuccessful when a jury in Los Angeles ruled that the opening riffs of Stairway to Heaven were not intrinsically similar to Taurus'. Following the verdict, Led Zeppelin, alongside their publishing company, sought to recover their legal costs on the basis that these would not be covered by their insurance company due to the age of the claim and that the claim had been 'an attempt to shake down the group'.

The judge in Los Angeles agreed that in principle Led Zeppelin were entitled to some form of compensation having been successful in the case, however it was within his discretion whether to award costs or not. The judge decided not to award any costs as he felt that there was no evidence that the Claimant harboured any 'nefarious motives' as alleged by Led Zeppelin.

Not only have Led Zeppelin been left substantially out of pocket by this claim but the lawyers for the estate of Mr Wolfe have also indicated that they intend to appeal the original decision. It appears therefore that this story still has some way to run and it is possible that Led Zeppelin may face further costs if they wish to defend their good name.

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: Civil Procedure, Copyright, News

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