Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Dispute Finally Reaches It’s Coda

The dust settles on plagiarism accusations against the British band after a long standing legal battle. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to proceed with the copyright case made against Led Zeppelin, reinforcing the band’s ownership of iconic rock tune ‘Stairway to Heaven’. 

Released in 1970, the song has since cemented its presence in the music industry and received numerous accolades. Named by Rolling Stone’s magazine as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is estimated to have earned $500 million. (Source: Rolling Stones)

The copyright case was first brought to light in 2014 by Micheal Skidmore who was representing the estate of Randy Wolfe, late frontman of American band Spirit. Skidmore accused Led Zeppelin of infringing upon the artistic license of Spirit’s 1968 song ‘Taurus’ with claims that the British band stole the opening sequence of the song in question. 

Two members of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, have been at the forefront of the accusations as it was discovered that Plant had attended one of Spirit’s gigs prior to the makings of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Page has also been found to be in possession of one of Spirit’s albums inclusive of ‘Taurus’. 

However, both members consistently denied any knowledge of the song. Plant has cited his involvement in a car crash after Spirit’s gig as a reason for his memory loss. Page insists he has never heard of ‘Taurus’ and states, ‘It was totally alien to me.’ (Source: BBC)

In 2016, Led Zeppelin won the legal battle as the jury found the two songs to be ‘not intrinsically similar’, but a fresh appeal was made by Skidmore in 2018. The case was once again open for investigation as claims of errors made during the first trial surfaced – namely that the jury had not been allowed to listen to ‘Taurus’ during the proceedings. 

However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the original decision in favour of Led Zeppelin, stating that the error in question does not justify a fresh trial. 

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