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Led Zeppelin Wins Court Case Over Stairway to Heaven

Oct 22 | 2020  by

The United States Supreme Court has given victory to Led Zeppelin in its long-running legal battle over alleged copyright infringement with the song Stairway to Heaven. The Supreme Court’s decision ends a years-long legal battle over one of the most popular rock songs of all time.

The case really began in 1967, when guitarist Randy Wolfe and the band Spirit released a song called Taurus. One page of sheet music for Taurus was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, listing Wolfe as the songwriter. Led Zeppelin released the album known as “Led Zeppelin IV” in 1971, including the song Stairway to Heaven.

Rock fans can instantly recognize the famous guitar intro to Stairway to Heaven, and Wolfe’s trust recognized it as too similar to Taurus, filing suit in 2014. Over a five-day trial, jurors heard testimony from Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and a pair of expert musicologists. Jurors did not hear the song played because the court denied that request, ruling that the jury had to decide based off the one page of sheet music. Even as the jury found that Wolfe owned the copyright to Taurus and Led Zeppelin was aware of the song, the jury found that the two songs were not substantially similar.

Wolfe’s trust appealed, and ultimately the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Led Zeppelin. The Court overturned past precedent to make it more difficult to prove that something was substantially similar to copyrighted work. The Court ultimately concluded that Wolfe’s trust did not present enough evidence to show that Led Zeppelin copied Taurus.

Wolfe’s trust appealed the 9th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to take the case, meaning that the 9th Circuit’s decision is the final word: Led Zeppelin did not steal the famous opening riff to Stairway to Heaven.

Even if you are not in a legal fight over one of the most famous rock songs in history, Fausone Bohn can help with all your business’s legal needs. From corporate work, to trade secrets, to noncompete issues, call Fausone Bohn for help with your business at 248-380-0000.