Jury Says Led Zeppelin Did NOT Rip Off 'Stairway To Heaven' Guitar Riff
After a much-publicized copyright trial and several hours of deliberation, a federal jury has rejected claims that Led Zeppelin stole one of the most iconic guitar riffs in music history. The eight-person jury ruled Thursday that there was not enough evidence to support claims that Led Zeppelin had plagiarized the opening chords of "Stairway to Heaven" from Spirit, a '60s-era L.A. rock band. Spirit had alleged in their suit that “Stairway to Heaven”'s opening was lifted from "Taurus," an obscure instrumental track released by Spirit in 1968. "Stairway to Heaven" was released on Led Zeppelin IV in 1971.
The lawsuit against Led Zeppelin was filed by Michael Skidmore, who is the trustee for the estate of Spirit frontman Randy California. The estate was seeking millions of dollars, and a third of the songwriting credit for the legendary song, according to the Guardian.
Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page took the stand last week during the trial, testifying that he had never even heard Spirit's song until people began pointing out similarities on the internet. Robert Plant also testified during the trial, as did bassist John Paul Jones, although Jones (unlike Plant and Page, who were listed as defendants) was not party to the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Led Zeppelin had argued that the song's descending guitar sequence was a commonplace "musical building block," and therefore in the public domain, according to City News Service.
The jury found no substantial similarity in the intrinsic elements of the songs, and declined to award any damages.
Update [11:00]: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page issued a joint 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.”
Warner Music also issued a statement celebrating the outcome, saying:
At Warner Music Group, supporting our artists and protecting their creative freedom is paramount. We are pleased that the jury found in favor of Led Zeppelin, re-affirming the true origins of 'Stairway to Heaven'. Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands in history, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are peerless songwriters who created many of rock's most influential and enduring songs.