US court opens le­gal ‘Stair­way’, over­turns Led Zep­pelin case

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - W RLD - —AFP

Wash­ing­ton: Bri­tish rock group Led Zep­pelin found it­self wind­ing on down the le­gal road again Satur­day af­ter a US ap­peals court or­dered a new trial over claims the rock­ers copied part of “Stair­way to Heaven.”

The court in San Fran­cisco over­turned a 2016 judg­ment by a jury which found no proof the clas­sic 1971 Zep­pelin song breached the copy­right of “Tau­rus,” writ­ten by Randy Wolfe of a Los An­ge­les band called Spirit. Wolfe’s trus­tee, Michael Skid­more, filed the case in 2015 on be­half of his late friend who long main­tained he de­served credit for “Stair­way” but drowned in 1997 hav­ing never taken le­gal ac­tion over the song.

The case is “re­manded for a new trial,” the higher court panel ruled Fri­day in a 37-page de­ci­sion sup­port­ing Skid­more’s ap­peal.

It said that cer­tain in­struc­tions to the district court jury had been “er­ro­neous and prej­u­di­cial” by ar­gu­ing that com­mon mu­si­cal el­e­ments are not pro­tected by copy­right, and by fail­ing to clar­ify that the ar­range­ment of el­e­ments in the pub­lic do­main could be con­sid­ered orig­i­nal. Ex­perts called by the plain­tiffs at the lower court trial said there were sub­stan­tial sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween key parts of the two songs, but de­fence wit­nesses tes­ti­fied the chord pat­tern used in the melan­cholic gui­tar in­tro to “Stair­way” was so com­mon­place that copy­right didn’t ap­ply.

—AP

A file photo of Led Zep­pelin band­mates, singer Robert Plant (L) and gui­tarist per­form­ing at a con­cert

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