Led Zeppelin Found Not Guilty in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Trial
For Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same. The legendary rock outfit had been accused of lifting parts from the Spirit song “Taurus” for their all-time classic “Stairway to Heaven.” Now, one week after the trial commenced, a California jury has found Led Zeppelin not guilty of plagiarism.
Commenting on the verdict, Plant and Page issued a statement saying, “We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favor, putting to rest questions about the origins of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and confirming what we have known for 45 years. We appreciate our fans’ support, and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us,” [via Billboard].
While the rock act had come under fire in the last couple decades, songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant maintained that they had not stolen any ideas from the Spirit song, notably a descending chromatic four chord progression. Arguing this passage had entered public domain after its roots can be traced back more than 300 years, the duo also worked to thwart the plaintiff’s (the estate of Randy Wolfe, guitarist for Spirit) claims that Zeppelin had heard “Taurus” prior to writing “Stairway to Heaven.”
Though Led Zep had performed a cover of Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage,” which appears on the same record as “Taurus,” Page stated he had heard the song for the first time two years ago, despite owning the album in his collection that spans over 4,000 albums. Music experts also testified in front of an eight person jury, who deliberated for a half hour after hearing both songs for the last time and turned in their not guilty verdict.
During his lifetime, Randy Wolfe (stage name Randy California) was reluctant to levy a lawsuit against Zeppelin due to the similarities between the songs. “Stairway to Heaven” has grossed over $572 million between 1971 and 2008 according to an Upstart report. With a reissue of Led Zeppelin IV pending, the lawsuit was enacted by Michael Skidmore, the trustee of Wolfe’s estate.
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