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SF Appeals Court Convenes Panel To Hear Plagiarism Case Against Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven'

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco announced Monday that a rarely convened 11-judge panel will take up a copyright dispute over the rock band Led Zeppelin's iconic "Stairway to Heaven" song.

The British band released the song in 1971. A trust established by the estate of the late guitarist Randy Wolfe claims the song was copied from "Taurus," a piece Wolfe wrote for his band Spirit in 1967.

The 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will review a ruling in which a three-judge panel of the court ordered a new trial on the trust's copyright lawsuit. In the first trial in federal court in Los Angeles in 2016, a jury ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin.

One issue in the case is whether the jury should be allowed to hear a recording of Wolfe's piece by his band.

The trial judge in the 2016 trial did not allow jurors to hear the original recordings because copyright law in 1967 covered only written sheet music and not music recordings. Instead, the jurors listened to a later partial reconstruction based on the sheet music.

A second issue is establishing the correct jury instructions on exactly which elements or arrangements of elements of music are protected by copyright.

Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas said in an order that the 11-judge panel will hear arguments on the case in San Francisco during the week of Sept. 23.

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