In ruling, California visual artists lose rights to royalties

Artist Laddie John Dill was a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking royalties under state law. Photo credit: Stephanie Diani for The New York Times as reported by The New York Times, 7/11/18.

Artist Laddie John Dill was a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking royalties under state law. Photo credit: Stephanie Diani for The New York Times as reported by The New York Times, 7/11/18.

Visual artists in California will not receive royalties from resale of their work, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The New York Times reported on the decision, which strikes a blow to the rights of visual artists, including young painters just becoming established.

“A federal appeals court has ruled that visual artists will no longer be entitled to royalties from resales of their work in California — a decision that may discourage other states from considering royalty laws,” The New York Times reported on July 11. “The ruling, issued on Friday [July 6], addressed a 1977 law, the California Resale Royalties Act, the only of its kind implemented in the United States. The law benefited visual artists, who, unlike composers, filmmakers or writers, do not receive a share of any future sales under copyright law.”

The court determined that state law conflicts with a federal copyright law’s first-sale doctrine “that claims once a copyright owner sells work a first time, they lose control over future sales,” the article noted.

‘Stairway to Lawsuit’ As Led Zeppelin Defends Iconic Song

Led Zeppelin, from left, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, in 1973. Credit Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Led Zeppelin, from left, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, in 1973. Credit Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You know they will have to play Stairway to Heaven in court, very likely over and over again. But, in a case that experts say might further evolve copyright law, Led Zeppelin is defending creation of the iconic song. The New York Times, in a page one story no less, says that “… the case focuses on the famous opening of “Stairway to Heaven,” in which an acoustic guitar plays arpeggiated chords in a descending pattern. That part, the suit contends, copied Spirit’s “Taurus,” released in 1968. In the suit’s complaint, Francis Malofiy, the lead lawyer representing the plaintiff, said that Led Zeppelin’s members heard Spirit’s song when the bands crossed paths on the road early in their careers.”

The guy with Spirit who, it is claimed, actually created the signature riff didn’t bring a lawsuit in his lifetime. But in recent years, courts have ruled that such challenges can happen long after a copyright is established by creation, and the musicians’ estate brought the lawsuit, which has been famously making its way through the California justice system for years. Now, it’s expected to be a headliner all summer.

Read the Times’ take here: Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to Be Scrutinized in Court in Copyright Case