US Justice Dept. Whole Lotta Love for Led Zeppelin on the Stairway to Heaven

It’s nice to see that the stodgy, uber Conservative Department of Justice has some rock and roll vibe.  Led Zeppelin  the fantastic band  is still staple for millions of fans.  These Republican attorneys must have been rock and rollers back in the ’60s before joining the Reagan Revolution.

Original band member Robert Plant will be appearing at this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in October

NBC News 8.16.2019

The legal dispute centers on whether the famous opening of “Stairway to Heaven” was ripped off.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is coming to the defense of Led Zeppelin in a copyright dispute over the opening passage from one of rock’s best-known anthems, “Stairway to Heaven,” a melody and chord sequence that nearly every aspiring guitarist tries to master.

The Justice Department filed a friend of court brief late Thursday supporting Led Zeppelin against a claim that it stole the musical passage from an earlier recording, “Taurus” by Spirit. The legal battle of the bands has played out in federal courts in California for the past five years.

Led Zeppelin II 8.16.2019.jpg

Trustees for the songwriter of “Taurus,” Randy Wolfe — who called himself Randy California and has since died — accuse Led Zeppelin of violating his copyright by appropriating the “distinct plucked guitar line and melody.” The case went to a jury, which ruled for Led Zeppelin in 2016.

At the trial, the jury heard from a member of Spirit, Led Zeppelin musicians Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and musical experts — but jurors never heard the actual recording of either song in court. The judge ruled that because “Taurus” was written in 1967, it fell under an older version of federal copyright law, which protected only the sheet music for the song, not the sound recording.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the case sent back for another trial, ruling that the jury should have heard the recordings to demonstrate that Led Zeppelin had access to “Taurus.” But in June, the full Ninth Circuit said it would hear the appeal again.

In its brief filed Thursday, the Justice Department said the trial judge got it right when he ruled that the only work subject to copyright protection was the sheet music, because the song was written before Congress changed the law in 1972, which gave protection to sound recordings.

A victory for Spirit would re-write a chapter of music history, involving bragging rights to one of rock’s most famous guitar passages. “Stairway to Heaven” is number 31 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

The appeals court will hear the case in September.

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