Thursday, June 23, 2016

Zip Zep Infringement

A jury in a Central District of California district court found on June 23, 2016, that the band Led Zeppelin, in its classic song "Stairway To Heaven", did not infringe the band Spirit's copyright on its song "Taurus".  The decision came despite similarities between the two songs, and acceptance by the jury that members of Led Zeppelin had had access to Spirit and its song.

The likelihood of an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal is high, in part because the result of this case seems discordant with the finding that the song Blurred Lines, by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, had infringed the copyright in Marvin Gaye's song "Got to Give it Up".  In the wake of these two district court decisions, the law of copyright infringement in music appears quite muddy.

The time is ripe for some guidance from a higher court.  As the Zeppelin song counsels,
And it's whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
Musicians now hope that the Court of Appeals will pipe up soon.