‘Stairway to Heaven’ Trial Loser May Have to Pay $800K

By Amanda Wicks

Led Zeppelin’s song publisher Warner/Chappell will enact a recently written Supreme Court decision about copyright cases to earn back the money they spent defending “Stairway to Heaven” in court.

Related: Lawyer Who Sued Led Zeppelin Suspended from Practicing

According to a June 16th opinion from the Supreme Court, winners in copyright cases can request the losing party pay attorney’s fees and other costs incurred if the case is deemed “frivolousness,” or if there are other factors, such as “motivation, objective unreasonableness, and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence” that would have kept things out of court in the first place (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The publishing company will seek close to $800,000 in compensation from Michael Skidmore, the Trustee of Spirit songwriter Randy Wolfe’s estate, and the man who brought the case against Led Zeppelin and Warner/Chappell in 2014. They are seeking $613,471 in attorney’s fees along with other costs like expert witnesses.

Warner/Chappell claims in a memorandum seeking recompense, that they successfully defended their case against “nearly half-century-old claims that neither Randy Wolfe 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.” There are other issues at stake, including Skidmore’s shady lawyer and the way the original lawsuit was filed.

All parties will return to court on August 8th to determine whether Skidmore will pay.

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