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Led Zeppelin cleared in copyright dispute over ‘Stairway to Heaven’

24-06-2016

Jury in Los Angeles decides that the opening guitar riff of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was not copied from the Spirit track.

It’s one of the 1970’s most recognisable guitar riffs, but Led Zeppelin was recently in court to defend ‘Stairway to Heaven’ against accusations of copyright theft.

The copyright suit was brought by the trustee of deceased guitarist Randy ‘California’ Wolfe of US psychedelic rock band Swift over the 1967 instrumental track ‘Taurus’. Issued before the release of Led Zeppelin’s career-defining epic, ‘Taurus’ contains a similar sounding chord progression, but both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant deny ever having listened to the track. Instead, the band successfully argued that the opening from ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is a derivative of a sequence commonly used in music, and that the lawsuit ignores the rest of the song, which builds over eight minutes and is substantially different to the Swift track.

The lawsuit also alleded that Led Zeppelin had a “deep-rooted history of lifting composition from blues artists and other songwriters who they have repeatedly failed to credit”, listing disputes over 16 other Led Zeppelin tracks.

However, the jury found in Led Zeppelin's favour, clearing the band of the allegations of plagiarism.