October 2018

Led Zeppelin, Spirit and a Bustle at the Ninth Circuit

The U.S. copyright community will look back on 2018 as an important year for music copyright law. Appellate decisions in music copyright cases are rare. However, this year we’ve seen two important opinions from the Ninth Circuit. In March the Ninth Circuit upheld a jury verdict that found that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s 2012 recording of “Blurred Lines” infringes Marvin Gaye’s 1976 composition of “Got To Give It Up” (see my blog post, “Blurred Lines at the Ninth Circuit,” here).

Now, in October, the Ninth Circuit has issued an opinion in Randy Wolfe’s copyright case against Led Zeppelin.* The jury in that case found that Led Zeppelin’s 1971 recording of Stairway to Heaven did not infringe Wolfe’s composition copyright in the 1968 song Taurus (recorded by Spirit).** However, the appeals court found that the judge made several errors during the trial, requiring that the case be retried.*

*[note] Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California) died in a drowning accident in 1997, and his estate is represented by a trustee named Michael Skidmore, the named plaintiff in the case.

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