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First off today, Joel Rubin and Randy Lewis at the LA Times reports that the trial over Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven has begun as the jury has been picked and opening arguments have taken place.
The case was filed by the estate of songwriter Randy Wolfe, which is claiming that Stairway to Heaven is an infringement of Wolfe’s song Taurus. Wolf wrote and performed the song with his band, Spirit. The trial had been delayed once and was threatened with additional delay following some last-minute motions but continued as planned yesterday morning.
The two sides presented very different arguments in the case with attorneys for Wolfe portraying it as a simple matter of giving credit where it is due while attorneys for Led Zeppelin contend that any similarities are just common musical elements that have been around for centuries.
Next up today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that two members of the band Satorii have filed a lawsuit against The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music over the Woody Guthrie song This Land, seeking a judgement that the song is in the pubic domain.
According to the lawsuit, the melody for the song was taken from a Baptist gospel hymn entitled Fire Song and used lyrics that were printed in a 1945 song book that was never registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, the band argues that, even if work was registered, it was not renewed, meaning that the copyright should have expired in 1973. There’s also an argument as to whether the lyrics were published with a proper copyright notice, which was a requirement of the law at the time.
However, there is a question as to whether or not the court will hear the case as courts are only supposed to hear matters that are “justiciable”. Since the plaintiffs involved have not been denied a license to use the song, having instead chosen not to distribute a possibly infringing cover, it’s unclear if the court will hear it. Still, the lawsuit is being pursued by the same firm that was victorious in the Happy Birthday to You lawsuit and is also seeking to have We Shall Overcome lose its copyright protection.
Finally today, Miariah Noble at The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah-based company VidAngel is being sued by Disney, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Brothers for alleged copyright infringement.
VidAngel is a a movie streaming service that allows users to “buy” a film for $20 and then “sell” it back for $19 in credit. While the user “owns” the film, they can then use VidAngel’s software to edit the film, removing violence, sex, nudity, foul language and other objectionable content.
According to the lawsuit, VidAngel is able to offer this much lower rate because they don’t pay the appropriate royalties to the movie studios. The lawsuit also claims that the manipulation of the film is also a copyright infringement. VidAngel claims that the manipulation is legal since the buyer “owns” the film but a similar video-cutting company, CleanFlix, was shut down in 2006 after a court ruled it was committing copyright infringement.
That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.