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Led Zeppelin did not lift Stairway riff, court rules
February 13, 1975 – Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin perform at Nassau Coliseum Pic: Shutterstock

10 Mar 2020 / Copyright and IP Print

Led Zeppelin did not lift Stairway riff, court rules

Led Zeppelin did not steal the opening riff to Stairway to Heaven, a US court has ruled.

The ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has upheld a 2016 trial verdict that found Led Zeppelin did not copy the riff from a song called Taurus by the US band, Spirit, written in 1968 – three years before Stairway to Heaven.

Rock classic Stairway to Heaven is acknowledged as one of the greatest rock songs ever written, and the copyright dispute case, which arose in 2014, has watched closely, given the vast potential damages.

The song had 17.4 million plays on Spotify by 2015, two years after the rock giants signed up to the streaming service.

Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page, who wrote the song, could have faced a bill for millions of dollars in damages if they had lost.

Spirit’s Taurus was written by the band's guitarist Randy Wolfe, known as Randy California, who died in 1997.

The case was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for his estate.

'Similar chord progressions'

Led Zeppelin and Spirit played live together after Taurus was written, and Skidmore suggested the songs had similar chord progressions.

A 2016 trial heard evidence from both Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant.

The jury decision was that the tracks were "not intrinsically similar".

However, in 2018 the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new hearing.

Yesterday, a 9-2 decision by the 11 judges said that Stairway to Heaven did not infringe copyright.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland