Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin's copyright battle finally over after Supreme Court refuses case

5 October 2020, 19:45 | Updated: 5 October 2020, 22:51

A six-year legal battle over one of rock'n'roll's most famous songs has ended after the US Supreme Court refused to take up the Stairway To Heaven copyright case.

Led Zeppelin were first accused of stealing the opening riff of the song from a little-known 1960s US track in 2014, and, despite winning the case two years later, were forced back to court two years ago.

On Monday, the US Supreme Court, the country's highest court of appeal, declined to rule on the case.

That in effect upheld a 2016 ruling that it did not infringe on the band Spirit's 1968 instrumental track, Taurus.

The 1971 song, often referred to simply as 'Stairway', is regularly voted one of rock's best and earned the British band around $4.3m (£2.6m) in the five-year period that was at issue during the trial.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who wrote Stairway, could have been ordered to pay that sum and possibly more in damages if they had lost the case.

Legal proceedings began in 2014 when the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who passed away in 1997, claimed Stairway to Heaven had violated his copyright.

Led Zeppelin was the opening act for Spirit on a U.S. tour in 1968, but Page testified in a 2016 jury trial in Los Angeles that he had not heard "Taurus" until recently.

Zeppelin won the case in 2016, but in September 2018 a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit ruled that the original trial involved "erroneous jury instructions" and ordered a new trial, Rolling Stone said.

That case ended in February, when the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals restored a jury verdict that found Led Zeppelin had not stolen the song's opening riff.

That left the Supreme Court as the Wolfe estate's last option, but that avenue has now been closed.

The effective ending of the case will be closely watched by the US music industry, which has been rocked by several similar plagiarism claims in recent years.

In a 2015 trial, jurors decided Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines copied Marvin Gaye's Got To Give It Up.

Last year, Katy Perry's Dark Horse was found to have copied from a christian rap song, however, in March a judge overturned that ruling.