The jury is in and they say that Led Zeppelin did not steal the opening guitar passage of Stairway to Heaven from the group Spirit.
The three surviving members of the band testified over the last week about whether they had heard the Spirit song Taurus which has a guitar passage that holds some similarities to Stairway.
The writer of the Spirit song, Randy California (born Randy Wolfe) was aware of the similarity but never pursued it in court. Led Zeppelin had opened for Spirit in late-1968 where, there was a belief, they could have heard Taurus being performed.
It wasn’t until after California’s death that the executor of his estate, Michael Skidmore, decided to move forward with a plagiarism case. At stake was millions of dollars in songwriting royalties in the past and the future.
Prior to the commencement of the trial, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who were co-writers on the song, received a number of favorable rulings, including only allowing versions of Taurus that had been filed with the copyright office in 1967 to be allowed into evidence, all testimony of other alleged plagiarism by the band was barred and there would be no testimony on the members drinking or drug habits or wealth.
After a week of testimony, the jury of eight deliberated for less than a day before returning a verdict that confirmed the copyright ownership of Taurus, that the members of Zeppelin had most likely previously heard the song, but that there was no substantial similarity between the two songs. Reports from the courtroom said that they asked to listen to the two songs one last time while deliberating, producing their verdict within a half hour.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant issued a statement, saying “We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favor, putting to rest questions about the origins of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and confirming what we have known for 45 years. We appreciate our fans’ support, and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us.”
Warner Music, who was also included in the suit, said “At Warner Music Group, supporting our artists and protecting their creative freedom is paramount. We are pleased that the jury found in favor of Led Zeppelin, re-affirming the true origins of ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands in history, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are peerless songwriters who created many of rock’s most influential and enduring songs.”
Lawyers for the estate of California have said that they will appeal.
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