Author: Aris M. Shatteen

A legendary rock dispute finally rolls to trial

A federal district judge has put Led Zeppelin on the stairway to a jury trial, denying the legendary rock band’s motion for summary judgment on a copyright infringement claim against it over the classic tune Stairway to Heaven (a tip of the hat to Courthouse New for posting the judge’s ruling). The trial has been scheduled for May 10, and if the trust for rocker Randy Craig Wolfe (aka Randy California), of the band Spirit, is victorious, it could force Led Zepplin to reliquinish part of the song’s profits. Those are estimated to amount to at least $562 million between royalties and record sales. The trust, as part of its lawsuit, also is seeking a songwriting credit for Wolfe. The dispute over this song has been as long and almost as legendary as the iconic tune itself, with the court noting the controversy’s roots dating to the late Sixties. So, besides listening and comparing the two songs in videos (above), how this case finally gotten to trial? In May, 2014, Wolfe’s trust sued the remaining Led Zeppelin members, alleging the band had copied the guitar riff in rock band Spirit’s song Taurus, recorded in 1967. Plaintiff’s expert stated, “80% of the pitches of the first eighteen notes match, along with their rhythms and metric placement.” Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin raised the defenses of abandonment,  defective deposit copy, and that the...

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When hip-hop artist misses beat, lawsuit fails

  Hip-hop artist Tyrone Simmons waited too long to “get money.”  His copyright infringement suit over a beat he owned and that was used in rapper 50 Cent’s 2007 hit I Get Money, has been dismissed due to untimeliness (tip of the hat to Loeb and Loeb for posting the case). In 2006, Simmons purchased a hip-hop beat created by defendant William C. Stanberry Jr. It later was sold to defendant Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) who used it in Money. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that because Simmons waited more than three years to file suit, he is barred by the statue of limitations. Musicians off on their timing? It happens this way: In May, 2007, Stanberry stated in an email to Simmons that he “no longer had exclusive (or any) rights to the Beat.” The Copyright Act bars actions relating to infringing acts that are brought after its three-year statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C § 507(b). Citing Kwan v. Schlein, 634 F.3d 224 (2d Cir. 2011), the court stated that the infringement claim must fail when the ownership claim is time-barred, and, thus, because Simmons knew of Stanberry’s intention to use the work. Money hard to miss Further, as a fellow hip-hop artist, Simmons must have noticed Money. It spent 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 20. It also reached No. 4...

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Tierney v. Moschino

The copyright infringement action by graffiti artist Joseph Tierney aka “Rime,” has survived Italian fashion house Moschino’s motions to dismiss the lawsuit for the use of his 2012 “Vandal Eyes” mural design in their Fall 2015 collection. Picture above shows from left: Rime’s mural, Katy Perry, Jeremy Scott and Gigi Hadid. Rime has collaborated with the likes of Converse, Adidas and has even created an officially sanctioned redesign of Disney’s Mickey Mouse. One brand he did not willingly join forces with is Moschino, the Italian fashion house who RIME accuses of copyright infringement. At the core of Rime’s suit is...

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