Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 25, 2014

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Colorado steps to the forefront in the battle for terminally patients having the right to access experimental medicine, and renewed allegations of copyright infringement surrounding Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven may delay the planned rerelease of the band’s classic Led Zeppelin IV.

Colorado Passes Right to Try Legislation

Last week, Colorado passed a unique piece of legislation that allows terminally ill patients to obtain and use experimental medication without first receiving federal approval.  The “right to try” law is a proposal that is being pushed in several states by groups who have grown tired of federal approval taking years to authorize use of new drugs.  The bill, which was passed unanimously by Colorado’s state legislature, was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper – bringing Colorado to the forefront of drug related legislation yet again.

Supporters of the so called “Dallas Buyers Club” bill – so termed because of the Oscar nominated film featuring the fight against FDA regulations by AIDS patients in the early 1990’s –  believe that the legislation will give terminally ill patients the opportunity to pursue all avenues of treatment that slow regulatory processes currently deny them.  Right to try, which has been passed in Louisiana and Missouri as well, may provide hope to dying patients in theory, however, it is difficult to predict whether or not big pharmaceutical companies or the FDA will allow for meaningful change.

The Food and Drug Administration will continue to regulate drug development and manufacture, and drug companies may be hesitant to defy federal regulators and risk approval of drugs that they have spent millions of dollars developing.  With drug companies unwilling to skirt the FDA approval processes, terminally ill patients may lack the authority to access experimental drugs, even if it is legal for them to do so.  A 2003 lawsuit to force the FDA to expand access to experimental drugs failed when a federal judge denied the right to access experimental medication – meaning patients cannot compel drug companies or the FDA to release drugs.

Regardless of whether the Colorado Right to Try legislation has the immediate impact its supporters hope it does, the law is still significant.  Should the law gain momentum across several states, the American public may be more likely to compel Congress to take action to improve access to experimental drugs – making Colorado’s law a significant step towards allowing terminally ill patients every opportunity to find effective treatment.

Led Zeppelin IV Reissue Delayed over Plagiarism Allegations

Led Zeppelin’s epic fixture atop classic rock charts, Stairway to Heaven, has netted the British rock group more than $500 million and secured the band’s place among the greatest rock groups of all time.  On the eve of the highly anticipated, and highly profitable, release of Led Zeppelin IV, Bloomberg Business week is reporting that members of the lesser known US group, Spirit, are considering a copyright infringement lawsuit against Zeppelin for incorporating significant portions of their song Taurus into Stairway to Heaven.  Written by Jimmy Page after Led Zeppelin shared several shows with Spirit, Stairway has undeniable similarities to Taurus that members of Spirit believe are the result of Page stealing from their creation.

Winning a copyright lawsuit requires the plaintiff demonstrate: an original work was copied to make something substantially similar, and the copier had access to the original work.  Page and the rest of Led Zeppelin performed several shows with Spirit in the mid to late ’60s, giving the band access to Taurus before writing their signature classic.  The ongoing dispute remains whether or not Stairway to Heaven is substantially similar to Taurus, a fact that has been debated for decades, but has come into particular focus with the advent of YouTube that has allowed widespread analysis by professional musicians and amateurs alike.

Led Zeppelin is no stranger to copyright infringement accusations – the band has altered writing credits and funneled portions of royalties for a number of hits including Whole Lotta Love and Dazed and Confused – but the allegations against Stairway to Heaven attract significant attention.  Should the case go to a jury the question will come down to whether or not the similarities between the two songs are recognizable enough for triers of fact to decide if one of the greatest rock songs ever written was created, in part, from stolen material.

Oregon and Pennsylvania Decline Appeal in Gay Marriage Rulings

Earlier this week, we wrote about three more gay marriage bans that were overturned in federal court.  In the wake of the decisions, officials representing Oregon and Pennsylvania have declined to appeal the decisions.  In accordance with the rulings in these cases, same-sex couples in both states are now able to legally get married.  Several of the other states with gay marriage bans overturned have announced the intent to appeal, so the matter is far from settled, and will remain so until the Supreme Court weighs in.