Led Zeppelin prevail in Stairway To Heaven dispute

Appeals court rules the band did not copy Taurus by Spirit.

Jiimmy Page and Robert Plant

Image: Kevin Manzur / Getty Images

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A court on Monday restored a jury’s verdict that Led Zeppelin did not copy Spirit’s Taurus in the 1971 classic, Stairway To Heaven.

This is the latest development in the case between Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Stairway’s two credited writers, and the estate of the late Randy Wolfe, the singer and guitarist of Spirit.

In 2016, a jury found that Led Zeppelin did not copy Taurus, a song written by Wolfe and recorded by Spirit. In the trial, the British band’s lawyers argued that the musical elements the two songs share were too basic to be protected by copyright. An appeals process was then launched, and in 2018 the ruling was overturned by a three-judge panel citing instructions given to the jury had been “erroneous and prejudicial”.

However, last year, the United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, decided to rehear the case in front of a panel of 11 judges. The court then put the original ruling back in place, handing Page and Plant a major victory but dealing a blow to Wolfe’s estate.

Francis Malofiy, the Philadelphia-based lawyer who filed the suit, has expressed his dismay at the verdict and said he may appeal to the US Supreme Court in an interview with Bloomberg. “I’m disappointed,” he said. “It’s a victory for the music industry against creators.”

In July last year, Manhattan District Judge Louis Stanton put on hold a lawsuit accusing Ed Sheeran of plagiarising Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On in order to wait for the results of Led Zeppelin’s case.

In a similar case, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, the principal writers of the song Blurred Lines, were ordered to pay more than $5 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye in 2015 for copying the 1977 hit Got To Give It Up.

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