Justice Department Takes Led Zeppelin's Side In 'Stairway To Heaven' Case
By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta
August 19, 2019
Led Zeppelin ought not to be extending writing credit or royalties to the estate of "Taurus" songwriter Randy "California" Wolfe on the basis of copyright infringement, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Wolfe's estate sued over similarities between sections of "Stairway to Heaven" and an instrumental track by Wolfe's band Spirit that pre-dates Zeppelin's iconic song.
The previous judge in the case ruled that copyrights of musical compositions prior to 1972 were only protected as sheet music. Because the deposit copies of sheet music for "Taurus" and "Stairway to Heaven" do not contain identical sections, Zeppelin correctly prevailed at trial, the Trump administration stated in an amicus brief.
"There should be no serious dispute that the passages of 'Stairway to Heaven' and 'Taurus' that are at issue here are not virtually identical," the government explained in a statement. "At a minimum, the notes and rhythm are not all, or even mostly, the same."
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, continuing the five-year legal battle. The appeals court ruled that the judge made a mistake by refusing to let the legal team for Wolfe's estate play the "Taurus" recording during Jimmy Page's testimony.
The case will go before an appeals court next month.
The "Stairway" case has also reignited calls for whether to expand copyright protection.
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