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Who says IP isn’t rock’n’roll?


There are only so many musical notes, chords and riffs in the world, so perhaps not surprisingly there are many copyright infringement lawsuits filed every year in the music industry.

The latest dispute to hit the headlines centres on the opening guitar riff of the Led Zeppelin track Stairway to Heaven, which is allegedly similar to guitar work on a track called Taurus, by the band Spirit.

Led Zeppelin toured with Spirit in the 1960’s, prior to releasing the 1971 Stairway to Heaven track.
The copyright infringement action is being brought by the estate of the late guitarist, Randy California, from the band Spirit.

Clearly artists feel these cases are worth disputing, for royalties and writing credits: and who wouldn’t? Stairway to Heaven has reportedly earned in excess of £334m.

Other famous cases of ‘taking inspiration’ having gone too far include Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, which was proved to have used Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie, Vanilla Ice had to pay for sampling the track, and Bowie and Mercury were given songwriting credits.

One of the biggest plagiarism trials in the music world, 1971 Bright Tunes Music v Harrisongs Music, established the link between George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and The Chiffon’s 1963 He’s So Fine. Harrison had to surrender all the money earned from his track.Undeterred though he later bought the rights himself.

To contact a member of the intellectual property team please email kate.stephens@clarionsolicitors.com. 

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