Led Zeppelin Is Getting Sued Once Again Over ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Led Zeppelin Sued Once Again Over Stairway to Heaven

Paul Hudson (CC by 2.0)

Did the jury mess up?  Led Zeppelin is now facing renewed copyright infringement accusations for ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

Who actually created the popular introduction to ‘Stairway to Heaven?’  Was it Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, or was it actually Spirit’s Randy California?  Does Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ sound musically similar to Spirit’s ‘Taurus?’

Last year, an eight-member jury unanimously decided against the estate of Randy California in a lawsuit in US District Court in Los Angeles.  The jury ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin in the copyright lawsuit brought on by estate trustee Michael Skidmore.

The actual suit only lasted seven days in court. Page spoke about the lawsuit in a Facebook post.

“A few weeks have past since the judgement of the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ case in Los Angeles, with the jury reaching a unanimous decision in a remarkably short time. Throughout the lengthy journey to that verdict, and even more recently, I have received and been aware of the overwhelming wave of support, encouragement, and congratulations that has been deeply moving. I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank all those who contributed such a positive energy to me.”

Michael Skidmore didn’t buy the ruling, however.

On March 15th, Skidmore filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the late estate of Randy California.

He alleges, “a quick listen to the composition of ‘Taurus’ on Spirit’s first album and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ makes it quite clear that Mr. Page undoubtedly relied upon ‘Taurus’ to create the early identical introduction to ‘Stairway to Heaven’.”

Skidmore claims that the Los Angeles jury ruled against Spirit because the lower court made substantial errors. He wrote,

“The reason for the [original trial verdict] is because the lower court made several evidentiary errors and…erroneously instructed the jury on how to perform the extrinsic analysis.”

He continued blaming the lower court for mishaps.  Had the jury heard Taurus’ complete composition, they would have ruled in favor of Skidmore.

“The most important of these errors… the trial refused to let the jury hear the full and complete composition of ‘Taurus’ embodied in the… recordings that Jimmy Page possessed.”

Due to these errors, the jury made an erroneous decision. Therefore, according to lower court mistakes, Skidmore demands the trial verdict reversed and “remanded for a new trial.”

“The jury was not allowed to compare the complete ‘Taurus’ composition… but instead was forced to make an artificial comparison between an inaccurate version of ‘Taurus’ more dissimilar to ‘Stairway to Heaven’.”

Skidmore also blamed the trial court for giving “a series of erroneous instructions on the scope of copyright protection.” These errors eventually led to the trial verdict. He went on to claim that the Appellate’s ruling court affect “many copyrighted works under the 1909 Copyright Act.”

Skidmore also asked the Ninth Circuit to strike down the original, nearly $800,000 legal bill.

It concludes,

“The issues complained of…demonstrate that there were many serious errors that unduly prejudiced Plaintiff’s ability to prove substantial similarity.”

You can read the full 90-page appeal below.

13 Responses

    • Avatar
      W K

      Of course he did copy Randy’s creation, at least for the first few sections. That’s too obvious. F**k JP.

      • Avatar
        Sorry Charlie

        I know music and you are full of it. Utterly ridiculous assertion. And even if the opening is similar (it’s actually more similar to a medieval piece in the public domain), the rest of the song’s many changing parts, arrangements and performances bear ZERO similarity to Randy Wallifornia’s dreck.

        Dream on until your dreams of living off the talent of others don’t come true.

          • Avatar
            Public Domain

            I know your mama sucks ‘er shit off my dick after it was up her ass!

    • Avatar
      Anonymous

      Why now after all these years? Just because an opening tune was similar does not mean it was stolen from that. There are thousands of songs that have similar melody. There are only so many combinations of notes to go around. Sounds to me that Spirit is trying to make money on someone else work.

    • Avatar
      "Balthazar"

      People, we have to set the “Way Back” Machine (or your TARDIS) for the 16th Century and listen to a Baroque piece by Granata called Sonata di chitarra… This descending minor progression is so common (there are other examples) that one may as well try to copyright the I IV V progression…

    • Avatar
      Balthazar

      People, you’ll have to set your “Way Back” Machine (or TARDIS) for the 16th Century and listen to a piece by Granata called Sonata di chitarra… There are other examples, as well… This descending minor progression is so common that one may as well try to copyright the I IV V7 I progression…

  1. Avatar
    Anonymous

    ““a quick listen to the composition of ‘Taurus’ on Spirit’s first album and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ makes it quite clear that Mr. Page undoubtedly relied upon ‘Taurus’ to create the early identical introduction to ‘Stairway to Heaven’.””

    That’s clear to everybody. What’s also clear is that the theme belongs to the Public Domain because it’s hundreds of years old.

  2. Avatar
    music stowaway

    Everyone (who once had a hit) now wants to find a way to fund their retirement and cover health insurance and have something left over for their bi-annual vacations .. so what better than to have your estate sue for copyright breach.

    After seeing the huge windfall made by the Gaye estate with the “Blurred Lines” case, also the wins over “Uptown Funk” – you can now make a claim and possibly make millions from somewhat flimsy similarities between say a song you (or the writer represented in your estate) made 40 or 50 years ago and something made recently.. Anyone who puts a bit of funk or reggae or RnB
    influence in their song is up for grabs if it’s “borrowed” something from the past.. or if you have a cool sounding riff.. lookout.. it might resemble something from
    the 60s or 70s..

    There’s money up in them their hills… that’s for sure…