Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Lawsuit over song may cost band millions

New Jersey fans of Led Zeppelin may have heard that a copyright lawsuit was filed against the band on behalf of the late musician Randy California by his trust administrator. The lawyers for the trust say that the client is willing to settle for one dollar and writing credit, but that may cost the band millions of dollars.

The controversy that initiated the lawsuit stems from the song, 'Stairway to Heaven." Allegedly, Randy California penned an instrumental track for his band Spirit during the 1960s. The attorney who initiated the lawsuit contends that part of the track was copied and is contained in the opening section of the Led Zeppelin hit song.

Lawyers for the rock band contend that the musical structure for the song was not new and had been known for centuries. In other words, it was not subject to protection by copyright. The plaintiff had argued that the band used the opening from the instrumental, which was a violation of its copyright.

An agreement to give credit to the deceased California would ensure that the estate would receive money from sales related to that and other songs by Led Zeppelin. One estimate pegged what the late musician's trust would be entitled to receive would over time amount to $40 million. The administrator said that all amounts would be dedicated to supporting the trust's project that supplies music lessons and instruments to low-income students.

Intellectual property litigation is often initiated to protect the rights of an individual's copyrights, trademarks or patents. As was seen here, many defendants and their attorneys sometimes choose to reach a settlement rather than pursuing a lengthy and expensive court battle.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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