On Monday, Sept. 23, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” lawsuit resumed at the San Francisco 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Circuit Court is hearing the case “en banc,” which means a full panel (11 federal appellate judges) will hear the case, instead of the customary subset of judges selected from the panel. An en banc review is often used for unusually complex cases or cases considered to be of greater importance.
“Appeals courts rarely take a case en banc, and they almost never do so in a copyright case,” said Joseph P. Fishman, an associate professor at the Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville. “So there’s some possibility that the court may take a big swing here.”
According to a Sept 30 article in Forbes, the Stairway lawsuit could potentially be worth $55 million In damages. The judges could take months to issue a decision, and even then the case could drag on and go as far as the Supreme Court.
– GotLed (Oct 6, 2019)
It’s been about a year since I posted, but that’s because I’d posted a Led Zeppelin history item for every day of the year, and history doesn’t change. But I return today with an update on the “Stairway to Heaven” lawsuit.
Zep fans may recall that a few years ago the band were accused of plagiarizing Spirit’s instrumental track “Taurus” for the intro to “Stairway.” “Taurus” was released in January 1968, more than three years prior to Zeppelin releasing “Stairway.” And because Zeppelin opened for Spirit a few times in early 1969 (shortly after they arrived in the U.S.), the possibility of them having heard “Taurus” in concert certainly exists.
A jury found in the original 2016 trial that Led Zeppelin did not plagiarize “Taurus,” ruling that it was not “intrinsically similar” to the opening of “Stairway to Heaven.” However, in September 2018, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the jury at the original trial was given improper instruction from the judge. Now a second trial is set for this September in San Francisco.
But Zep may have help this time. On August 2, Digital Music News reported that 123 artists and organizations have submitted a brief to the court in support of Led Zeppelin, claiming that ruling in favor of Spirit would severely hamper their own creativity, the creativity of future artists, and creativity in “the music industry in general.” We’ll see what happens in September, but in the meantime you can read the brief here.
-GotLed (Aug 10, 2019)
This week in 1973, Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant began enforcing a 90/10 concert gate proceeds split in favor of the band (traditionally, gate revenues had been split 50-50 between band and promoter). The concert industry howled, but Grant informed them that 10% of Led Zeppelin’s business was better than 50% of nothing. The concert promoters caved in, and the other big bands of the day were quick to follow suit.
Grant, a 6’-3” 320-pound ex-professional wrestler, was the kind of manager every artist wants – immensely loyal, undaunted in his efforts on behalf of his clients, and fully prepared to eradicate problems by whatever means necessary. He was known as being one of the shrewdest and most ruthless managers in rock history.
Unpopular as his strategies may have been with booking agents and promoters, Grant was the principal architect of the shift in power from businessmen to artists during the 70s. His tactics are widely credited today with improving pay and conditions for musicians in dealings with concert promoters.
Today in 1999, Led Zeppelin topped a British chart of most bootlegged musicians, as compiled by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) after they identified 384 bootleg titles of Led Zeppelin performances. The bootleg chart was compiled from the BPI’s archive of some 10,000 recordings seized over the previous 25 years. The Beatles came in second with 320 entries; other acts listed included The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd.
Today in 1968, John Paul Jones officially replaced former Yardbirds bassist Chris Dreja in Jimmy Page’s new band, to become known as Led Zeppelin a few months later. Page knew he needed a virtuoso bassist who, when needed, could quickly move to other roles (arranger, keyboards, etc.), onstage and in the studio. Page already knew Jones as a session colleague, so a rehearsal would not be so much a test of his abilities as a matter of determining if he would fit in. If I recall correctly, he fit in just fine…
After replacement, Dreja turned to another passion, photography, and quickly started a professional career. In fact, he took the photo that appeared on the back jacket of Zeppelin’s debut album.
A little post-Led Zeppelin history…
Today in 1983 Robert Plant appeared on the UK TV show Top of the Pops, performing the hit single “Big Log” from his second solo album, The Principle of Moments.
Today in 1977 the band arrived in Oakland, CA for the last leg of their 1977 U.S. tour. Their two shows at Oakland Stadium on the following two days were the last shows the band ever performed in North America, as Robert Plant’s son Karac died unexpectedly two days later and the remaining portion of the tour was cancelled.