Supreme Court Declines To Hear Led Zeppelin Copyright Case

Recorded on October 7, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not hear a long copyright case against the band Led Zeppelin, leaving in place an appeals court ruling that the band did not copy part of a 1968 song by Spirit. Attorney Ben Barry is on the radio with WIZN explaining why the court may have made this decision.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Joe: 106.7 WIZN. John Mellencamp with Jack & Diane. Heard Heart in Magic Man before that. I’m Joe Vega taking you through your Wednesday rocking ride home. And I’m joined now by Ben Barry from Martin Harding & Mazzotti. Hello, Ben.

Ben: Hello, Joey Vega. How are you?

Joe: I’m doing well. Doing well.

Ben: I want to express my condolences to you and to your listeners and anybody else that loved…

Joe: Oh, yeah. Eddie…

Ben: …Eddie Van Halen.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That was…

Ben: Sad news.

Joe: That was a bummer. Rock icon, no longer with us.

Ben: I heard your tribute and I appreciated it.

Joe: Well, thank you very much, Ben. I appreciate that. But that’s not why I’m calling you. I mean, we can put our grief aside for a second. I’m calling you because it was announced this week that the Supreme Court would not hear the appeal by the band Spirit. Of course, they’ve got a big lawsuit that’s been going on for years now with the band Led Zeppelin in regards to copyright violations or copyright infringement.

And the Supreme Court decided that they were not going to hear the case. And I was wondering if you can tell us why they decided to make that decision, if you know.

Ben: The Supreme Court did not provide a reason why they did not hear the case. So, what underlying intelligence there was, we have no idea, we’ll never know why they did not hear that case. But the case was filed back in 2014 as you may recall, and essentially the band Spirit alleged Led Zeppelin had ripped off a riff and some other stuff, too. The first trial basically said Led Zeppelin did not infringe on any copyright protection that might have existed, based on very old law from 1909.

They appealed that decision and the court that heard that initial appeal was a three-judge panel and they said ,actually, there were some mistakes that were made at trial, A: the jury should have been able to hear both songs side by side, and the judge should have instructed the jury differently.

At that point, Led Zeppelin’s attorneys say, “Hey, wait a minute. Hold on here. We want all of the judges from the appellate Ninth Circuit to hear this case, all 11 judges.” And those judges basically said, “Yeah, sorry. We actually agree with the lower court. We’re gonna reinstate the verdict,” which was there were no infringements, you don’t have to hear the song side by side for all the legal reasoning provided by the lower court.

We’re gonna stick with that. Then Spirit’s attorney appealed that to the Supreme Court to say, “Hey, this appellate division here has done something wrong. They are reinstating this verdict and we want you to review it because there are significant legal implications and it’s something that the Supreme Court should be providing some opinion on.”

And they basically said, “This is beneath us. This is not important enough. We don’t need to hear it.” It is what it is.

Joe: So this is dead in the water and it’s a victory for Led Zeppelin, you think?

Ben: Yes, this is a victory for Led Zeppelin. They don’t have to deal with this anymore.

Joe: Okay. Well, thank you very much.

Ben: Of this song from that plaintiff.

Joe: Right. Right, right. All the other songs that they stole, which, by the way, is a lot, they may have to worry about those. All right, thank you very much. Ben Barry from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Thanks for coming on, Ben.

Ben: Thank you, Joe.

Joe: Remember, you can call Ben at any time at 1-800-LAW-1010 or go online to All right, I’m outta here. Mel Allen’s taking over. He’s got music from Tom Petty, Boston, and Journey next.

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