Legal Battle of the Bands Is Over

Supreme Court leaves 'Stairway to Heaven' with Led Zeppelin
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2020 7:05 PM CDT
Legal Battle of the Bands Is Over
Robert Plant, left, and guitarist Jimmy Page play in 1985.   (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

The six-year legal back-and-forth over "Stairway to Heaven" has ended, with Led Zeppelin holding on to ownership of the song. The US Supreme Court announced Monday that it won't take up the case, leaving intact a March ruling by an appeals court that favored the band, the BBC reports. Spirit, an American psychedelic band, filed a copyright suit in 2014 claiming that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page copied the song's opening riff from "Taurus," which Spirit released in 1968. The judge didn't let the original jury listen to "Taurus," but the Ninth Circuit decided the error didn't call for a new trial. Some estimates put earnings from "Stairway to Heaven" at more than $500 million since it was released in 1971, per the New York Times.

The two bands shared a bill in Birmingham, England, in 1970, but Page said he'd never heard "Taurus" until online posts compared the songs in the early 2010s. "I knew I had never heard that before," Page testified. The jury didn't buy that contention but still decided the songs were "not intrinsically similar." Experts testified that the descending pattern isn't unique to those two songs, giving a 1964 Mary Poppins song, "Chim Chim Cher-ee," as one example. The music industry monitored the case for decisions on whether, for example, copyright can be claimed over a brief sequence of notes or chord progression. (More Stairway to Heaven stories.)

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