Led Zeppelin wins copyright battle over ‘Stairway to Heaven’ after Supreme Court declines to hear case

The Supreme Court’s decision ends six years of litigation that began in 2014

Madeline Roth
Tuesday 06 October 2020 00:54
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Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Cage on the making of Stairway to Heaven
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Led Zeppelin are finally able to put their long-running "Stairway to Heaven" copyright battle behind them.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review the case, which alleged that the British band plagiarised the iconic riff of their classic 1971 ballad. The decision upholds a March ruling from the US Court of Appeals that landed in favour of singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page, who composed the track in 1971.

The justices did not offer any explanation for declining to review the case, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The decision ends six years of litigation that began in 2014, when Led Zeppelin were sued over claims they had stolen the opening riff of "Stairway" from "Taurus", an instrumental track by the 1960s band Spirit.

The original suit was filed by the estate of Spirit guitarist and songwriter Randy California (born Randy Wolfe), who died in 1997. Spirit released "Taurus" on its self-titled debut album in 1968, three years before Led Zeppelin put "Stairway" on their fourth album. The two bands toured North America together from 1968 to 1969.

A jury ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin in 2016, but the case was later revived by the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Since the appeals court upheld the original verdict, the Supreme Court's new decision not to hear the case essentially ends the dispute.

The "Stairway to Heaven" saga has been one of the most closely watched cases in the music industry. Ever since a 2015 ruling found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams liable for copyright infringement over their hit song "Blurred Lines", there has been an uptick of copyright suits involving other high-profile musicians like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran.

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