Led Zeppelin have prevailed in a long-standing copyright battle over their signature song, Stairway to Heaven.
The US supreme court has declined to hear the case brought against them by the estate of Randy Wolfe, late frontman of US band Spirit.
It was alleged that Led Zeppelin took the opening notes to Stairway to Heaven from Spirit’s song Taurus, after Led Zeppelin heard the song when they played with Spirit in Birmingham in 1970. Guitarist Jimmy Page countered that the chord sequence had “been around forever”, and that he had never heard Taurus before.
Following a six-day trial in 2016, Led Zeppelin were cleared of plagiarism. The jury rejected the claim that Page and frontman Robert Plant weren’t familiar with the song – it also featured in Page’s sizeable record collection – but found the two songs to be “not intrinsically similar”.
That verdict was overturned in 2018, after it was found that the judge in the first case made an error by claiming “descending chromatic scales, arpeggios or short sequences of three notes” were not protected by copyright. It was also deemed an error that the jury had not been played Taurus in court.
The case returned, but in March this year a US appeals court reinstated the original 2016 ruling. The only remaining recourse for Wolfe’s trustee team was the US supreme court, whose rejection of the case means it has finally ended.
Page and Plant have not commented on the ruling, nor on previous rulings, aside from a brief statement in 2016 to thank the jury.
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