Led Zeppelin didn't steal Stairway to Heaven riff, court decides

10 March 2020, 11:00

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Picture: Jay Dickman/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The legendary rock band have won a long-running copyright dispute over the classic 1971 song.

Led Zeppelin have won a long-running copyright dispute over the opening riff in their classic song Stairway To Heaven.

The iconic rock band were first accused of stealing the song's opening riff from a song called Taurus by US psych-rockers Spirit, recorded three years before the release of the album Led Zeppelin IV, which contained the rock behemoth.

The estate of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe aka Randy California, who died in 1997, brought the action back in 2014. However, a US appeals court has now ruled that this was not the case.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has upheld a 2016 trial verdict, which concluded that the British band did not steal the riff from the American group.

The court ruling represents a significant triumph for Led Zeppelin musicians Robert Plant and Jimmy Page - who wrote the song - as they would have been required to pay millions of dollars in damages if they'd lost in the courts.

Led Zeppelin IV has gone on to sell in excess of 37 million copies worldwide since its release on 8 November 1971.

The case was re-opened in 2018, when the US Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the trial judge had made a series of errors in the original trial, which led to a new hearing being ordered.

The original hearing claimed that the Stairway riff was not "intrinsically similar" to Taurus. Wolfe's estate had proposed playing the two recordings for jurors, but this latest legal statement claims that this may have prejudiced the jury.

The ruling states that the jury found both Page and Plant "had access to the musical composition Taurus before Stairway To Heaven was created".

"Once the jury made that finding, the remaining questions on the jury verdict form related to substantial similarity of the works."

Led Zeppelin Songs