Last Update 21:6
Saturday, 20 October 2018

Led Zeppelin must face new trial claiming it stole 'Stairway' riff

Reuters , Saturday 29 Sep 2018
Lead singer Robert Plant (L) and guitarist Jimmy Page of British rock band Led Zeppelin
FILE PHOTO: Lead singer Robert Plant (L) and guitarist Jimmy Page of British rock band Led Zeppelin (Reuters)
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1113
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1113

Led Zeppelin was ordered by a U.S. appeals court to face a new trial over whether it stole the opening guitar riff for its 1971 anthem "Stairway to Heaven" from an obscure instrumental written four years earlier.

In a 3-0 decision on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out a June 2016 verdict in the rock band's favor, citing a series of errors by the trial judge.

The decision revives one of the music industry's most closely-watched copyright cases, potentially exposing Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page to millions of dollars of damages.

Lawyers for the defendants had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit had been filed by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the songs of Randy Wolfe, a guitarist for the band Spirit.

Skidmore accused Plant, 70, and Page, 74, of stealing the iconic opening to "Stairway" from the Spirit song "Taurus."

He said the songs had similar chord progressions, and that Page may have written "Stairway" after hearing "Taurus" while Led Zeppelin and Spirit were touring together.

Wolfe, who performed as Randy California, had complained in interviews about the songs' similarities, but did not sue prior to his death by drowning in 1997.

Jurors determined that while Plant and Page, who testified at the trial, had access to "Taurus," the song's riff was not intrinsically similar to the opening of "Stairway."

But in Friday's decision, Circuit Judge Richard Paez said the trial judge erred in failing to instruct jurors that the trustee could prevail if Wolfe had created a "sufficiently original combination" of otherwise unprotectable music elements.

Paez also said the judge erred in instructing jurors about the copyrighting of music elements in the public domain, and should have let them listen to "Taurus" while Page testified, to assess his demeanor and help determine whether he had access.

"We do not dispute that Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands in history, but their plagiarism indelibly stains their legacy," Skidmore's lawyer Francis Malofiy said in an email.

“Led Zeppelin obviously copied 'Taurus' by Randy California, a musician they knew well," he added.

The case was returned to U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles.

Friday's decision followed a March 21 copyright ruling by another 9th Circuit panel upholding a $5.3 million judgment to Marvin Gaye's children. They accused Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams of creating the 2013 smash "Blurred Lines" by copying Gaye's 1977 song "Got to Give It Up."

The case is Skidmore v Led Zeppelin et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-56057.

For more arts and culture news and updates, follow Ahram Online Arts and Culture on Twitter at @AhramOnlineArts  and on Facebook at Ahram Online: Arts & Culture

Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's
Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.