Led Zeppelin Win in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case Affirmed

Written March 18, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on March 9, 2020, held that the opening guitar riff in Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” didn’t infringe another band’s copyright. Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, 9th Cir., No. 16-56057, 03/09/2020.

The en banc decision means Led Zeppelin won’t face a second trial over allegations the group stole the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” from the 1968 song “Taurus” by the band Spirit.

The court rejected as “garden variety” the argument by the estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy “California” Wolfe, which brought the lawsuit in 2014, that the songs were similar based on the combination of five common musical elements. The Court found that the plaintiffs failed to show how the common elements they cited formed a selection and arrangement worthy of copyright protection.

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