Led Zeppelin did not steal "Stairway to Heaven," jury rules


#1

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#2

To me, the weirdest part of this whole thing is: why did Spirit wait so long to bring a suit? What kind of residuals do they expect to get now? When it was on the radio once every hour, there was some major money to be had. Whereas now, that money paid for hookers that are long retired and for blow that has all been snorted (and, cup raised to Bonham, drinks that have been drunk).


#3

IIRC, it’s the estate of Randy California that brought the suit (similar to Marvin Gaye’s lawsuit). Also, IIRC, if the plaintiffs persevered, they were only eligible to recoup for the last few years of royalties–not all the way back to the single’s release.


#4

IMHO, that is some grade A BS.


#5

One does not steal “Stairway to Heaven.” Such a thing is BOUGHT, usually by a lady who is sure all that glitters is gold.


#6

You mean the lawsuit being filed by the estate so long after the supposed infringement as an obvious money grab by persons who didn’t have any part in the original composition of the supposedly copied few notes?

Yeah, it should have been tossed before it got to a jury. I feel like this decision is payback for the bullshit settlement over Bittersweet Symphony. Hopefully Skrillex (and, eh, Bieber) win theirs too.


#7

I still think Jimmy Page did in fact borrow that opening chord change from the Spirit song, simply because he did the same thing with so many other songs, however I also think he and Plant added enough of their own material to make it a new beast altogether, and so the estate of Randy California doesn’t need to get anything for it (in fact before his death Randy himself said he didn’t care that they stole that little bit from his song.)

This is very different than the issue with Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused”, Anne Bredon’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” or Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love” to which Zep added parts and improved upon, but are still clearly the same song with a fancier arrangement.


#8

Because they were waiting for copyright law precedent to be in a place where a lawsuit had any chance of moving forward. They probably only considered it recently, given the results of the Marvin Gaye suit, which essentially decided that you can have a copyright case even when there’s no actual, specific copyright infringement.


#9

The estate of Spirit got stupidly greedy. If they had pulled a “Blurred Lines” and tried to claim that Jimmy Page had copied the intro to “Stairway” from the recording of “Taurus”, they could have played both songs for the jury and most likely gotten a nice settlement.

Instead, their claim was that Page & Plant had heard them perform “Taurus” several times and copied the song, so they should have co-writing credit. If they’d won, they would be eligible for retroactive royalties from every time “Stairway” has ever been played or performed by any band over the past 40-some years, since they wanted in on the songwriter copyright. But because of that, the studio recording wasn’t admissible, just the sheet music! So to prove their case, they had to have a guy play “Taurus” and “Stairway” on piano in court, and they lost, because they sound totally different.


#10

I tried to count and I believe it was literally ten notes copied.

I think maybe criticizing an artist for failing to note an influence is fair in a situation like this, but ten notes from a song that’s more than five minutes long? Come on.


#11

considering both the Spirit bit and the Zep bit were based on something that had been copied and used going all the way back to the 16th century, i think this was the right decision. even if Page was influenced consciously or unconsciously by California’s song, this is what artists DO: they hear or see things, and get inspired, and riff off of them, and make them their own.


#12

#13

I confess I don’t know the legal specifics, but it looks like nungesser outlined why they lost. If you play the two songs, it is either the most amazing coincidence in the world ever, or Zepplin ripped them off.

As much as enjoy some of their songs, they have been total dicks historically. First off by not giving credit for covers, borrowing material with out credit, etc. Borrowing isn’t new or anything, but many times they didn’t give proper credit. And then turning around and suing people who dared sample or barrow from them. I can’t stands hypocrites.


#14

Yep. Stupid move.


#15

Jimmy Page worked on the music for “Stairway” for years. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics in minutes.

I think Page borrowed a little from Spirit, but not enough to qualify as copyright infringement. So the jury got it right. But I think it’s undeniable - and I say this as a huge Zeppelin fan - that there are many Zep tunes that were more than borrowed. “Dazed and Confused” was not a Zeppelin tune, for example. It is one of my favorites (especially live), but it was stolen.


#16

Did Led Zeppelin rip off Bach also? It’s not that amazing if you understand that the possibilities are pretty damned limited in the grand scheme of things between the limited number of chords and the limited number of chord sequences that will sound good to the human ear.


#17

The lawsuit? or the result? b/c I can’t believe the lawsuit made it this far.


#18

I’d be more incline to agree with you if they weren’t contemporaries of each other AND they haven’t repeatedly been called out for borrowing from other works with out credits.

I think this case is much more similar than Heuy Lewis and the News vs Ray Parker Jr.


#19

Those are good reasons for suspicion, but not evidence of wrongdoing that rises to the level of being lawsuit worthy, much less reason for finding in favor of the estate. It’s also highly suspicious that despite Randy Wolfe supposedly thinking a few notes were copied, he never thought it was worth pursuing as a lawsuit.

And what if Wolfe copied Bach or Giovanni Battista Granata first? You can’t copyright public domain music so you also couldn’t violate copyright law by copying a sequence of notes that are in the public domain. While prior art is a term relating to patent law rather than copyright law, it seems like the prior art provided from hundreds of years before makes the claim dubious.

And if you apply the four factor test, you shouldn’t conclude copyright violation even if Page actually did copy the notes anyway. The notes weren’t a large part of Taurus. It’s about 8 seconds of a 2 minute 39 second song that sounds slightly similar (though Taurus sounds like someone trying to play Stairway but can’t remember exactly how to play it - it’s not impressive finger work). Stairway as a whole is substantially different than Taurus. Taurus is instrumental, Stairway isn’t. The guitar solo in question is at the beginning of Stairway and the similar part in Taurus is about 58 seconds in. Stairway has significantly different instrumentation through its very long play time versus a short and monotonous Taurus. Stairway doesn’t affect the potential market for Taurus because they’re significantly different songs. If the notes were copied, the use would be highly transformative.

Edit: Yeah, this - https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/17/music-expert-testifies-stairway-to-heaven-led-zeppelin-trial


#20

I was in the courtroom opening day. The plaintiff’s legal team was unprepared, awkward, casually attired, unprofessional (Picture “The Bowery Boys Day in Court”) and, beside appearing to disrespect the court they also managed to further majorly pissed off the judge, making him ask “Did you hear what I just said?”. None of this worked in their favor.