A Los Angeles jury has found Led Zeppelin‘s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page did not steal the opening of their classic song, “Stairway to Heaven,” from the 1968 Spirit song, “Taurus.”
Attorneys representing the estate of late Spirit frontman Randy California had sought to prove that Led Zeppelin’s members had plagiarized a guitar riff featured in “Taurus” and used it as the basis for the opening of “Stairway to Heaven,” but the jury decided that there was no “extrinsic similarity” between the two songs.
The jury returned their verdict today, after less than a full day of deliberation, including a partial day Wednesday.
The jury had four questions to answer: Is the plaintiff the rightful owner of “Taurus”?; did the defendants have access to “Taurus” before writing “Stairway to Heaven”?; did Plant and Page specifically have access to “Taurus”?; and was there an “extrinsic similarity” between “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven”?
Jurors answered yes to the first three questions, and no to the final one.
Page and Plant issued a joint statement following the ruling that said, “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.”
Meanwhile, the plaintiff’s attorney, Francis Malofiy, addressed the media after the ruling. He maintained that although his legal team proved Page and Plant had access to “Taurus,” he complained that the jurors were never allowed to hear the original recording of the song.
“The jury never got to hear the real evidence in this case and that’s real frustrating,” Malofiy said. “We feel justice wasn’t served.”
Among the points made by Malofiy were that Page and Plant were familiar with “Taurus” and that “Stairway to Heaven” was substantially similar to the tune. He maintained that California, whose birth name was Randy Wolfe, deserves one-third of the writing credit for “Stairway” and that damages should be between $3 million and $13.5 million.
Led Zeppelin’s lawyer, Peter Anderson, argued that the plaintiff didn’t prove that the British rockers copied “Taurus” when writing “Stairway to Heaven,” while claiming that the descending chromatic lines shared by both songs are featured in numerous older tunes that are in the public domain. One of those songs, “To Catch a Shad,” was played in court, and also sounded remarkably similar to both “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven.”
Other points Anderson brought up were that “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven” sound like two separate songs when superimposed, and although Page admitted to owning some Spirit albums, there was no evidence that he had them prior to writing the music for “Stairway to Heaven.” He also maintained that the amount of damages California’s estate was seeking is misleading and outside the statute of limitations.
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