Federal Appeals Court Orders New Trial In Copyright Case Over Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”

According to Variety, a federal appeals court has decided to overturn the jury’s decision in the copyright infringement case involving Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” The case was originally brought forward due to the similarities between the track and Spirit’s “Taurus.”

Michael Skidmore, the trustee of “Taurus” songwriter Randy “California” Wolfe’s estate, brought forward the claims more than four decades after “Stairway To Heaven” was released. When the case was taken to court, a Los Angeles jury ended up voting in favor of Led Zeppelin, after listening to both songs.

Skidmore then filed for appeal, which led to a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordering a new trial. Their decision was made based on the judge in the previous trial, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner , giving “instructions that failed to make clear that an arrangement of otherwise unprotectable elements in a song can be sufficiently original to merit copyright protection.”

Circuit Judge Richard A. Paez also said Klausner was wrong for not letting Skidmore’s attorney play “Taurus” while Jimmy Page was testifying.

Paez commented:

“Without a selection and arrangement instruction, the jury instructions severely undermined Skidmore’s argument for extrinsic similarity, which is exactly what the jury found lacking.”

“Given the probative value of the information and the relatively low risk of unfair prejudice, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion in excluding the evidence.”

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