Los Angeles musicians can be caught between a rock and a hard place. An artist wants exposure, especially at a career’s inception, but going public with a song also makes the music vulnerable to thieves. Song authors may not realize the music rights they have until someone else capitalizes upon their work.
The rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven” was introduced in 1971. A new copyright infringement lawsuit claims parts of the song were stolen from the work of a band called Spirit, the main attraction on a 1968 tour with a then-little-known opening band called Led Zeppelin. The lawsuit filed by the estate of Spirit’s deceased lead guitarist claims Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” sounds a lot like Spirit’s song “Taurus.”
The intellectual property lawsuit was filed more than four decades after the public was introduced to Zeppelin’s blockbuster and 17 years after Spirit’s band member died. Why is there a legal dispute now? The estate claimed Spirit’s Randy California was a struggling guitarist, without the financial resources during his life to challenge the world-renown rock band and its record company, Warner Music.
The filing states Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was a big admirer of Spirit’s music. According to Bloomberg’s businessweek.com, the lawsuit’s claim of “Falsification of Rock N’ Roll History” includes a request to order Page to preserve tapes he made in 1970 while composing the disputed song. Page has dismissed the legal complaint as “ridiculous.”
The California lawsuit brought by the Spirit guitarist’s estate has requested punitive damages for copyright infringement of “Taurus.” In addition, the plaintiff has asked to have Randy California included as a songwriter on “Stairway to Heaven.” The civil case surfaced as Warner released remastered versions of Led Zeppelin first trio of albums.
A proactive approach to intellectual property protection is encouraged. Don’t wait for a costly legal dispute to find out what rights you have and safeguards you need.
Source: CNN, “Copyright infringement suit filed against Led Zeppelin for 'Stairway to Heaven'” Lisa Respers France, Jun. 03, 2014