As the legal action involving Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” moves through the courts, 100 acts have come forward to offer their support.
A brief filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says the acts believe that they also will “undoubtedly be affected by the outcome of this critically important case.”
The case has been a roller coaster of results and emotions thus far. Originally a California federal jury rejected claims that Zeppelin copied a riff from the band Spirit and the song “Taurus” for the intro of “Stairway.” A member of Zeppelin’s legal team admitted the riff actually exists in the public domain. When this was announced, this opened the case up to appeal by the estate trustee Michael Skidmore, who is representing late Spirit songwriter Randy California.
The brief argues that the “the purported ‘selection and arrangement’ in ‘Taurus’ that also appeared in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ merely [consists] of random similarities of commonplace elements. After filtering out the generic elements or musical commonplaces identified in ‘Taurus’ under the extrinsic test, what remains are two completely different songs.”
Some of the artists that have come forward include, Tool, Sean Lennon and Korn, as well as the Songwriters of North America and the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The attorney for Skidmore was not impressed by this show of support. Francis Malofiy said, “It represents 123 songwriters out of roughly 500,000. It’s really nothing more than a blast piece for the industry.”
Zeppelin’s industry supporters also spoke about the “public domain” comment: “Significantly, however, although facts and elements in the public domain, as well as commonplace elements, if arranged in an original manner, may qualify for thin copyright protection,” the filing states, “the component parts themselves do not become protected by copyright simply by virtue of their combination into a larger whole.”
The supporters also said that if Zep should lose the case, it would “cause substantial confusion. Any artist who reads the opinion may very well fear that the very common use of any ‘descending chromatic scales, arpeggios or short sequences of three notes,’ or any elements in the ‘public domain,’ could form the basis of an infringement action.”
Stay tuned! This one is bound to hit the headlines soon.