Led Zeppelin Wins Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over ‘Stairway To Heaven’
The legendary English rock band, Led Zeppelin, has won a major copyright infringement lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that the opening instrumental in “Stairway to Heaven” was stolen from Spirit’s 1968 song titled, “Taurus.”
The allegations began in 2014 when Michael Skidmore, trustee for the estate of the deceased Spirit guitarist Randy California, filed the case. In 2016, Led Zeppelin won the lawsuit but the lawyer for Spirit, Francis Malofiy, filed an appeal.
The Justice Department filed an amicus, arguing that the ownership of an older song like “Taurus” is limited to the song’s sheet music. It was not until 1972 that Congress changed the law to protect sound recordings, because of this, the lawsuit was focused on the composition of the song.
In the amicus, the government claimed that there were not enough similarities to win the case. What the songs had in common were their chord progressions and their descending chromatic scales, music elements that are too basic to be protected by copyright. “There should be no serious dispute that the passages of Stairway to Heaven and Taurus that are at issue here are not virtually identical. At a minimum, the notes and rhythm are not all, or even mostly, the same.”
Bill Donague, Law360 reporter, tweeted excerpts of the 73-page court document.
“We affirm the judgement that Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven did not infringe Spirit’s Taurus,” the document states.
This is a COMPLEX, 70+ page opinion, but the bottom-line is that the court upheld a jury verdict clearing Led Zeppelin of all wrongdoing. pic.twitter.com/3yISno0DhR
— Bill Donahue (@Bill__Donahue) March 9, 2020
Malofiy, however, remains dissatisfied with the outcome. He stated, “The court got it wrong. Led Zeppelin can be happy they won on a technicality, but that does not mean they won on the merits. Anyone who has heard the two songs at issue knows it is a blatant ripoff.”