Did the jury mess up? Led Zeppelin is now facing renewed copyright infringement accusations for ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
Who actually created the popular introduction to ‘Stairway to Heaven?’ Was it Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, or was it actually Spirit’s Randy California? Does Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ sound musically similar to Spirit’s ‘Taurus?’
Last year, an eight-member jury unanimously decided against the estate of Randy California in a lawsuit in US District Court in Los Angeles. The jury ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin in the copyright lawsuit brought on by estate trustee Michael Skidmore.
The actual suit only lasted seven days in court. Page spoke about the lawsuit in a Facebook post.
“A few weeks have past since the judgement of the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ case in Los Angeles, with the jury reaching a unanimous decision in a remarkably short time. Throughout the lengthy journey to that verdict, and even more recently, I have received and been aware of the overwhelming wave of support, encouragement, and congratulations that has been deeply moving. I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank all those who contributed such a positive energy to me.”
Michael Skidmore didn’t buy the ruling, however.
On March 15th, Skidmore filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the late estate of Randy California.
He alleges, “a quick listen to the composition of ‘Taurus’ on Spirit’s first album and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ makes it quite clear that Mr. Page undoubtedly relied upon ‘Taurus’ to create the early identical introduction to ‘Stairway to Heaven’.”
Skidmore claims that the Los Angeles jury ruled against Spirit because the lower court made substantial errors. He wrote,
“The reason for the [original trial verdict] is because the lower court made several evidentiary errors and…erroneously instructed the jury on how to perform the extrinsic analysis.”
He continued blaming the lower court for mishaps. Had the jury heard Taurus’ complete composition, they would have ruled in favor of Skidmore.
“The most important of these errors… the trial refused to let the jury hear the full and complete composition of ‘Taurus’ embodied in the… recordings that Jimmy Page possessed.”
Due to these errors, the jury made an erroneous decision. Therefore, according to lower court mistakes, Skidmore demands the trial verdict reversed and “remanded for a new trial.”
“The jury was not allowed to compare the complete ‘Taurus’ composition… but instead was forced to make an artificial comparison between an inaccurate version of ‘Taurus’ more dissimilar to ‘Stairway to Heaven’.”
Skidmore also blamed the trial court for giving “a series of erroneous instructions on the scope of copyright protection.” These errors eventually led to the trial verdict. He went on to claim that the Appellate’s ruling court affect “many copyrighted works under the 1909 Copyright Act.”
Skidmore also asked the Ninth Circuit to strike down the original, nearly $800,000 legal bill.
“The issues complained of…demonstrate that there were many serious errors that unduly prejudiced Plaintiff’s ability to prove substantial similarity.”
You can read the full 90-page appeal below.