Led Zep Publishers Denied Attorney's Fees After "Stairway" Trial

Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin et al., No. CV 15-03462 RGK (AGRx) (C.D. Cal. Aug. 8, 2016).

After winning the Led Zeppelin "Stairway To Heaven" trial, the Judge denied the defendant music publishers' motion for approx. $800,000 in attorney's fees and costs under section 505 of the Copyright Act.

Once the media hype and tangential distractions are stripped away, what remains is an objectively reasonable claim motivated by a desire to recognize Randy California’s musical contribution. The claim survived a summary judgment motion and proceeded to a hard-fought trial where a jury found for Plaintiff on ownership and access, but ultimately rendered a verdict for Defendants based on a lack of substantial similarity. Plaintiff was afforded a full opportunity to litigate its theory of infringement and Defendants were entitled to raise a meritorious defense, which ultimately prevailed. Viewing “all the circumstances of [this] case on their own terms, in light of the Copyright Act’s essential goals,” this Court concludes that attorney’s fees are not appropriate. Kirtsaeng, 136 S. Ct. at 1989.

 

Stairway To Heaven Not Copyright Infringement Finds Federal Jury

Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, No. 15-cv-3462 (C.D. Cal. June 23, 2016).

After about one day of deliberating, a federal jury in California returned a verdict in favor of Led Zeppelin finding that their iconic song "Stairway To Heaven" did not infringe the song "Taurus" by 1960's band Spirit.  News outlets report that the jury found that while Led Zeppelin had a reasonable chance of having heard "Taurus" in order to copy it, the songs were not extrinsically similar.

Stairway To Heaven Copyright Infringement Survives Dismissal, Transferred From Philly To Calif.

Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin,  14-cv-03089 (E.D. Pa. filed 05/06/15) [Doc. 54].

Plaintiff alleged Led Zeppelin copied significant portions of its iconic 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven” from plaintiff's copyrighted guitar composition “Taurus,” and that all of the Defendants (the band members, publisher and label) have exploited and continue to exploit “Taurus” as “Stairway to Heaven.”  Plaintiff sued all Defendants for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement and also brought a claim for equitable relief in the form of an order directing Defendants and the Copyright Office to include Plaintiff as a writer of “Stairway to Heaven."  Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and improper venue.

The Court found the individual Defendants (band members) were not subject to either general or specific jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, where the case was filed.  Notably, because there is a three-year statute of limitations for copyright claims, the Court found that contacts with Pennsylvania in the 1980s and 1990s were not relevant to the Court's analysis.  These Defendants, however, consented to personal jurisdiction and venue in the Central District of California.  The Court found a transfer to California to be in the interests of justice.

Zeppelin Named as Plaintiffs in ASCAP Suits


We've covered the public performance cases filed by ASCAP and BMI, and usually the named plaintiffs are (i) major publishers, like EMI and SonyATV, and (ii) the artists' boutique-publishing LLC. So, it was with great surprise that OTCS discovered this public performance case with the members of Led Zeppelin as individual named plaintiffs.

Don't get excited. The complaint is as vanilla as the rest. But, it is interesting to observe that Led Zeppelin appears to handle their publishing personally, at least on some level.

The Caption -- No. 1:08-cv-00604-WDM (D.Colorado filed Mar. 24, 2008)

ODNIL MUSIC LIMITED, FIFTY-SIX HOPE ROAD MUSIC LIMITED, JAMES PAGE (JIMMY PAGE), ROBERT PLANT, JOHN BALDWIN (JOHN PAUL JONES) and PATRICIA BONHAM, individually and as Guardian of the children of deceased author JOHN BONHAM, JASON BONHAM and ZOE BONHAM

Plaintiffs,

v.

FRANKIE’S TOO, INC, and
FRANKIE D. PATTON

Over The Hills and Far Away

OTCS was one of (literally) millions of entrants to see Led Zeppelin LIVE and REUNITED for tonight's show in London. But, as luck would have it, OTCS didn't get drawn for the lottery...

Any readers at the show, please post comments about the performance.

Also, because this is a tribute concert, OTCS wonders whether there will be a later-released DVD or album (like G. Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh.) If yes, does Led Zeppelin have any sort of back-side deal on this compilation? A percentage of the DVD sales? Will they be so vein as to edit their performance, or outright ban it from the release (a la 1985 Live Aid?).

Ramble On...

Robert Plant asserts that the upcoming Led Zeppelin performance (Ahmet Ertugen Tribute Nov. 26 in London) will NOT be the launching ground of a Led Zeppelin tour.

I suppose when you make enough money on album sales (exclusively in the physical realm, no less!), public performance on the radio (what city doesn't have a Led Zeppelin/Pink Floyd channel? WNCX baby!), & merchandise etc....AND you haven't recorded new material as a band since at least 1982's "Coda"... you can turn away a gold-mine...?!