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Appeal filed in 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright lawsuit

A high profile Copyright Infringement case involving the Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven" is back in the headlines this month.

Last April, the estate of Randy Wolfe, guitarist for the 1960s rock band Spirit, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against former Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. The lawsuit alleges that Page and Plant stole the opening riff for their iconic song from the Spirit song "Taurus." The federal jury sided with the defendant, ruling that the songs were not similar enough to indicate a Copyright violation. On March 15, the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The appeal, filed by trustee Michael Skidmore and attorney Francis Malofiy, claims that errors in the federal trial led to the jury ruling that there was no Copyright Infringement. Most notably, the appeal brief notes:

"The jury was not allowed to compare the complete ‘Taurus’ composition that defendant James Patrick Page possess and allegedly copied, but instead was forced to make an artificial comparison between an inaccurate version of ‘Taurus’ more dissimilar to ‘Stairway to Heaven’."

Additionally, the plaintiff's appeal presents several other issues for consideration by the Ninth Circuit court, including:

  • Failure of the court to inform the jury that combinations and arrangements of musical elements are protectable.
  • Violation of the plaintiff's due process rights by limiting case presentation time to ten hours.

The plaintiffs are asking the Ninth Circuit court to reverse the federal court's "highly prejudicial" decision and order a new federal court trial. The appeal was filed on March 15, so any appellate decision is still pending.

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