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Katy Perry lawyers say Stairway To Heaven judgement strengthens case for overturning Dark Horse ruling

By | Published on Tuesday 17 March 2020

Katy Perry

Lawyers for Katy Perry have argued that last week’s big judgement in the Led Zeppelin song-theft dispute has enhanced her case for having the ruling in the ‘Dark Horse’ litigation overturned.

America’s Ninth Circuit appeals court last week ruled en banc that a lower court was right to say that Led Zeppelin did not infringe an earlier song called ‘Taurus’ when they wrote ‘Stairway To Heaven’. The appeals court originally overturned the lower court’s decision, but then decided to uphold it after a bigger panel of Ninth Circuit judges considered the case.

Perry and her songwriting team were, of course, ordered to pay $2.7 million last year to the people behind a track called ‘Joyful Noise’, after a jury concluded that they ripped off that earlier work when they made her hit ‘Dark Horse’.

Team Perry quickly launched an appeal of that judgement, presenting various arguments as to why the judge should set aside the jury’s decision, or cut the damages bill, or order a retrial.

Her attorneys referenced the then ongoing Led Zeppelin case when they originally filed their appeal last October. Now that the Ninth Circuit has ruled that there was no copyright infringement in that case, because ‘Taurus’ and Stairway’ were not sufficiently similar, Perry’s reps reckon they have an even stronger argument for over-turning last year’s ‘Dark Horse’ ruling.

There were various copyright complexities considered in last week’s Ninth Circuit judgement, not all of which are relevant to the ‘Dark Horse’ litigation.

However, according to Law360, Perry’s lawyers stressed yesterday that the Ninth Circuit ruling also included “an extended defence of why copyright law doesn’t cover ‘common musical elements’ and basic ‘building blocks'”, because doing so “might ‘curtail the creation of new works'”.

This, reckons those lawyers, backs up their argument that the musical elements shared by ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Joyful Noise’ are commonplace and cannot be protected by copyright.

Needless to say, legal reps for the makers of ‘Joyful Noise’ used yesterday’s hearing to insist the Led Zep ruling changed nothing. It’s not just about having shared musical elements, they argued, it’s that – in their case – the way those musical elements were employed are the same. “It’s about the expression of the idea”, said the ‘Joyful Noise’ lawyer, and that is protected by copyright.

And so the legal wrangling continues!