Yesterday, a jury in LA came to the conclusion that Led Zeppelin’s iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” was not plagiarized.
No legal action was possible prior to 2014 when led Zeppelin re-released the song. Prior to that any similarities and accusations of plagiarism were merely speculative because it was seen as outside the state of limitations. The song that it was believed to be copying was the LA based band Spirit’s song “Taurus” off Spirit (1968).
The lead singer of Spirit, Randy “California” Wolff made allegations regarding “Stairway to Heaven” in an interview shortly prior to his passing. It was the estate of Spirit that pursued the case on their behalf. Consequence of Sound reports that their intentions were to not only receive a monetary settlement but to also receive a songwriting credit.
Britain leaves European Union and Led Zeppelin cleared of plagiarism charges? What a day! pic.twitter.com/m8cJBAiNTp
— Yeasayer (@Yeasayer) June 24, 2016
Ultimately at the end of the trial the lawyers representing Spirit’s estate wanted credit for the band and exposure. Their lawyer stated in a press a release that their aims were to “preserve, promote and perpetuate the spirit and the legacy of Randy California.”
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were brought into question because they were familiar with Spirit’s music, Led Zeppelin having toured with band between 1968 and 1969. “Stairway to Heaven” was later written in 1970.
The Led Zeppelin “Stairway” trial is the natural sequel to "Almost Famous" https://t.co/rRekRPdftG
— Salon.com (@Salon) June 18, 2016
When it came to Plant and Page’s statements, issues arose as the song was written forty-six years ago, so naturally Page and Plant had difficulties recalling specifics regarding the songwriting process.
According to Consequence of Sound the judge explained it as, “true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure.” He continued saying, “what remains is a subjective assessment of the ‘concept and feel’ of [the] two works.”
Ultimately, after a ten day trial the conclusion was reached that “Stairway to Heaven” was not plagiarized. It will remain one of the greatest songs of all time with its integrity still intact.
You can hear a comparison of the two songs in the video below.
Image Courtesy Jim Summaria via Wikipedia Photo Commons