Friday, July 08, 2016

Led Zeppelin & Warner/Chappell Want $800,000 From the Estate of Randy California

by VVN Music

Not only did Led Zeppelin win their case in the lawsuit brought by the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy California over the song Stairway to Heaven, but they are now using a recent court ruling to seek $800,000 in legal fees from the estate.

Led Zeppelin opened for the band Spirit in the late 60's and may or may not have heard an instrumental track by the band called Taurus that included a guitar line similar (but not the same) to the classic opening of Stairway to Heaven. California was aware of the similarities when he was alive but chose not to pursue any legal cases.

After California's death, his estate moved forward with their claim that Led Zeppelin songwriters Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had, in fact, plagiarized their song opening from the Spirit song. After over a year of legal wrangling, a judgement was made in favor of Plant and Page, stating that, while they may have heard the song previously, there was not enough similarities to find that they were stealing.

That case ended on June 23 and all could have been finally done; however, exactly one week earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that songwriters and other copyright holders who have successfully defended their works had the right to be reimbursed for attorney's fees when the original suit was brought in "frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness, and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence."

Using that ruling, Warner/Chappell is asking for $613,471 in attorney's fees plus additional costs for expert witnesses, a total of almost $800,000, from the estate. The request alledges that the lawsuit was based on "nearly half-century-old claims that neither Randy Wolfe [California] nor the owner of the allegedly-infringed copyright ever bothered to assert because any similarity between Taurus and Stairway to Heaven results from the use of a centuries-old, public domain descending chromatic line."

They are also calling out "plaintiff's litigation misconduct at every step of the case from its inception through and including jury deliberations." They later go on to further detail this, calling out the "Plaintiff's filing of complaints with improper allegations and in the wrong court [Pennsylvania] followed by plaintiff's repeated filing of meritless motions" and numerous motions that caused additional legal fees.

The first hearing on the motion is set for August 8.

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