Led Zeppelin and their “Stairway to Heaven” lawsuit will get another hearing in 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the week of September 23, and 123 artists and music organizations have submitted a joint amicus brief supporting Zeppelin.

The brief, which can be read on DigitalMusicNews.com, features a number of big names including Heart’s Nancy Wilson, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Primus’ Tim Alexander and Les Claypool, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Sean Lennon, Nile Rodgers, Tool, Korn, Little Big Town, Bob Ezrin, Eddie Money, Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz and the Songwriters of North America and Nashville Songwriters Association International.

The brief argues that, “There was no evidence presented at the Led Zeppelin trial that the otherwise unprotected elements that appeared in [Spirit’s] ‘Taurus’ were presented in such an original pattern or compilation as to garner copyright protection.”

The original lawsuit was brought on by the estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy California (real name Randy Wolfe) who wrote the song “Taurus.” The estate is arguing that Zeppelin ripped off a chord progression in “Taurus” that was used as the intro to “Stairway to Heaven.” Zeppelin’s defense argued that the descending four-chord progression on “Taurus” was common and not subject to copyright protection, thus proving Zeppelin didn’t rip off Spirit.

The brief further argues that if the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finds in favor of the California/Wolfe estate that, “Any artist who reads the opinion may very well fear that the (very common) use of any ‘descending chromatic scales, arpeggios or short sequences of three notes,’ or any elements in the ‘public domain,’ could form the basis of an infringement action.”

The new hearing is the result of a September 2018 decision from the 9th Circuit Court that overturned a 2016 verdict that ruled Zeppelin did not steal parts of their iconic “Stairway to Heaven” from the 1968 track “Taurus” from the band Spirit due to “erroneous and prejudicial” jury instructions that included the U.S. district court not allowing “Taurus” to be played during the trial. The new hearing will be heard en banc (before all judges of the court) instead of the previous three-judge panel.


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Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock news blogger who's well-versed in etiquette and extraordinarily nice. #TransRightsAreHumanRights