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Led Zeppelin Wins Copyright Infringement Suit in “Stairway to Heaven” Dispute

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Intellectual Property Law, What is It?

Led Zeppelin is not my favorite band, nor is “Stairway to Heaven” my favorite song.  It is a good song.  And I do not handle intellectual property (IP) law litigation cases but my son Max, who just finished his 1st year of law school, is very interested in IP law and I am interested in all civil litigation.  Max is so interested in IP law, he is leaving for Croatia in a few weeks to participate in an international IP law study abroad program through the Michigan State University College of Law.  Intellectual property is a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which someone has the rights and for which one may apply for a copyright, trademark, or patent.  Litigation can arise from the acquisition of such a determination or an infringement of the right obtained by law.

What was at Issue Here?

Well, there are so many songs out there, sometimes one artist accuses another of plagiarizing or stealing their artistic creativity.  In this case, the issue was the beginning of the song.  A former member of a lesser-known band, known as “Spirit,” thought the beginning of their song “Taurus” was copied and used by Led Zeppelin:

The trial lasted a week, with music experts providing their opinions.  After a day of deliberating, the jury returned a “no cause for action,” saying in IP law lingo that there was “no extrinsic similarity” between the two songs.

What was at Stake?

Aside from honor and reputation, tens of millions of dollars based on revenues gained or lost from the use of the creative talent -in this case, the descending chord progression that an expert testified had been popular for decades.  In some technology disputes over who controls an idea, the stakes can reach hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars in damages claims.  Congratulations to the jury in this case, to Led Zeppelin, and their attorneys.  Stay tuned…