Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven On Appeal

By on November 18, 2016
800px-Robert-Plant Led Zeppelin

Photo Credit: Dina Regine (CC-BY-SA)



Rock lore tells us that “Stairway to Heaven” started out simply in 1970’s Wales with a few notes recorded on cassette by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant for the Led Zeppelin album, IV. Today, it’s being discussed in Federal Court.

Working from a small cottage in the Welsh mountains, Page and Plant, composed what would become a definitive collection of songs for Led Zeppelin that included chart-topping songs like, “Whole Lotta Love”, “Going to California”, and “Stairway to Heaven.”

Flash forward to today:

Trial is currently underway for a lawsuit alleging members of Led Zeppelin plagiarized a key element of the best-selling song “Stairway to Heaven” from the band, Spirit. The estate of Randy Wolfe, the late guitarist of the band Spirit, initially filed the federal lawsuit. Similarities between the “Stairway” intro and Spirit’s “Taurus” have long been recognized, but the riff in question can be traced even farther back. Provided below is a link to “Stairway to Heaven”, “Taurus”, and Guitarist Davy Graham playing “Cry Me A River”, as captured in a 1959 BBC documentary directed by Ken Russell on the rise in popularity of the guitar in Britain. You tell us, are they similar?


The lawsuit was filed in a Philadelphia court back in 2014, the same year, Led Zeppelin released a remastered version of “Stairway to Heaven.” A year later, a change of venue was granted and the suit was moved to California, thru luck or skill — to the same court that recently ruled in favor of the estate of Marvin Gaye in its copyright infringement lawsuit over the 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.

Jurors tasked with deciding whether Led Zeppelin ripped off another band’s music for “Stairway to Heaven” won’t hear about the legendary rockers’ drugs and alcohol use, after Led Zeppelin’s lawyers argued it was irrelevant and would “waste time.”

UPDATE: On June 23, 2016, following a trial, an eight-member jury unanimously found that the similarities between the songs did not amount to copyright infringement. The decision came one year after a jury (in a lawsuit filed in the Central District of California before Judge John A. Kronstadt) ruled that Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (produced by Pharrell Williams) infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” This verdict, of course, led to an appeal from the Estate of Randy Wolfe.

The Led Zeppelin case enforces the idea that different aspects of entire songs, specifically the composition, instrumentation and final recording, are subject to analysis in a potential copyright infringement claim. As for the appeal, the Trust’s attorneys are challenging the jury verdict in the Ninth Circuit. The notice of appeal reads:

Please take notice that Plaintiff Michael Skidmore, Trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from the final judgment entered on June 23, 2016, as well as any and all interlocutory rulings, decisions, and orders that gave rise to the judgment and are merged therein.

Sourced from: http://www.law360.com/articles/788880/led-zeppelin-s-drug-use-barred-from-stairway-copyright-row

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