Led Zeppelin have won a case against them (again) that claims they stole elements of their huge track Stairway to Heaven from another thanks to a concrete copyright law for older recordings.
Earlier in the decade Led Zeppelin were taken to court by songwriter Randy Wolfe over one of their most famous tracks. Randy alleged that the British band had heard his band Spirit’s song ‘Taurus’ before writing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and took elements from it.
The court case initially concluded that the band had not infringed on Spirit’s song and ruled it case-closed in 2016. Randy wasn’t happy however, explicitly criticising the judge’s approach and his refusal to play both of the songs in court as evidence.
Following the jury’s rejection of the claim, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals tried to appeal the case in 2018. They agreed with Randy that the judge had made too many errors involving the case.
The appeal was finally decided upon on Monday when 11 judges decided that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ did not infringe on Taurus’s copyright. Circuit judge Margaret McKeown said of the verdict: “This case was carefully considered by the District Court and the jury.
“The trial and appeal process has been a long climb up the Stairway to Heaven,” she quipped. If you listen to both songs it’s easy to see where the claim is coming from, especially considering both bands’ closeness at the time and the releases of each record.
Led Zeppelin were protected by a law that dictates copyright infringement for music before 1976 is only applicable if there is sheet music for the original work and it is dated and registered with the US Copyright Office.