Court rules in favor of Led Zeppelin


Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the composers of "Stairway to Heaven" rock out on stage in 1975. Photo Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis

Emma Guglielmo

In an ongoing court case that was first filed in 2014, classic rock band Led Zeppelin triumphs against lesser-known Spirit’s claims. Spirit’s accusations say that Led Zeppelin’s 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarized their 1968 song “Taurus”, pointing especially to the guitar riff in the beginning of each song, Spirit decided to take the case to court.

However, it is important to note that Randy Wolfe, the writer of “Taurus” and Spirit’s guitarist, never filed the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin, as he passed away in 1997. A co-trustee Michael Skidmore filed it on the late Wolfe’s behalf. 

When Spirit did not receive the ruling they were looking for in 2016, an appeals court ordered the case to be revived in 2018. According to the panel, supposedly the jury was misled in their instructions. In Sept. 2019, the case was reopened. Nearly seven months after appellate judges relooked into the possibility that “Stairway to Heaven” was plagiarized, the ruling became public on Monday, Mar. 9, 2020. 

Standing by the 2016 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reached the same conclusion that Led Zeppelin’s hit from the 1971 album “Led Zeppelin IV” was indeed original. 

“Skidmore’s position is a curious one and defies common sense,” stated Judge Margaret McKeown in her 73 page long opinion detailing the case. To read the official document, click here.

“Led Zeppelin’s defense was based on its argument that the musical elements in Section A of Taurus were too common to be protectable,” the judge continues on, supporting the concept that arpeggios and descending chromatic scales are common musical elements, and staking ownership to them is wrong.

To listen to “Stairway to Heaven”, click here. To listen to “Taurus”, click here

As the number of copyright cases in the music industry skyrocket and seemingly become a common occurance on the daily news, Led Zeppelin’s win is not just a win for the rock band, but can also be considered a win for music lovers and creators.

This story is a follow-up to our coverage of this court case in the opinion section six months ago. Click here to read the opinion piece.