As the Justice Department continues to review a 75-year-old consent decree that rules over the public performance of song compositions, it has announced that licensor ASCAP has agreed to changes to resolve an investigation into whether the performing rights organization was violating the old consent decree. Additionally, ASCAP will be making a $1.75 million payment, although it is not admitting any wrongdoing.

The DOJ launched its probe in the midst of ASCAP's rate-setting proceeding with Pandora.

Pandora was entitled to this rate-setting proceeding thanks to a 1941 consent decree that settled an antitrust lawsuit brought by the government alleging monopolization of performance rights licenses. The consent decree  requires a license for song performance rights be given whenever an outlet requests it, but song publishers attempted to withdraw new-media rights from ASCAP in order to negotiate directly with Pandora. That led to a court fight, and in 2013, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote determined that that the consent decree required Pandora be given a license to stream despite the move from ASCAP's publisher members.

Judge will decide soon

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The judge who will decide if Led Zeppelin copied a guitar riff when writing "Stairway to Heaven" will hear from the band's musicologist at trial — despite a last-ditch effort to have him tossed for a conflict of interest. 

Trial is set to begin Tuesday morning to put to rest a dispute about whether "Stairway" infringes on a 1968 instrumental song called "Taurus" by the band Spirit. Michael Skidmore, who manages songwriter Randy Wolfe's trust, sued the band in 2014. 

Late Filings Seek to Exclude Led Zeppelin's Expert in 'Stairway' Copyright Trial

Over the weekend, Skidmore's attorney, Francis Malofiy, filed a motion to exclude noted musicologist Lawrence Ferrara from testifying, claiming the expert had previously been hired by the plaintiff's publisher to evaluate the similarities between the two songs.

Zeppelin's attorney Peter Anderson, in his opposition to the filing, called the motion a baseless and desperate attempt to interfere with their defense. "Defendants’ counsel did exactly what was appropriate when they learned that Dr. Ferrara had been consulted by Universal and Rondor: They obtained Universal and Rondor’s consent to defendants’ retention of Dr. Ferrara," Anderson writes. 

Malofiy also asked the court to reconsider a summary judgment order which reduces any recoverable damages by 50 percent.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner on Monday ordered both the motions to be stricken because "hearing information is missing, incorrect, or not timely" and one of the filings exceeded the court's 20-page limit. In short: too much, too late.

Led Zeppelin Says 'Stairway to Heaven' Adversary Is Trying to Taint the Jury Pool

In a rather amusing Monday filing, Anderson also opposed Skidmore's request to use two electric guitars for demonstrative purposes. 

Though it's a trial about a guitar riff, Anderson points out that Skidmore's musicologist testified that he doesn't play guitar. Anderson previously asked the court to exclude three other experts, who do play guitar, and Klausner tentatively agreed. 

So, whom would that leave to play these guitars? Anderson suspects it's Malofiy and says that would be inappropriate.

"Skidmore’s enigmatic assertion that the guitars he seeks permission to bring into the courtroom 'would include use by Plaintiff’s experts' ... suggests that Skidmore’s counsel may seek to play a guitar at trial," Anderson writes. "To permit him to do so would not only make his counsel a witness at trial, but effectively give Skidmore a new, previously undisclosed 'expert.'"

Klausner has yet to rule on that motion.

Stairway To Heaven Guitar Riff Challenged

ASCAP Settles Justice Department Probe for $1.75 Million


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