The Supreme Court has refused to hear the Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” copyright infringement case, presumably drawing the years-running legal saga to a close.
Digital Music News has covered the extensive courtroom confrontation every step of the way since it kicked off in 2014. The estate of Randy California, who was the guitarist and lead vocalist for the 60s-era band Spirit, alleged in the suit that 1971’s “Stairway to Heaven” copied its critical guitar riff from 1968’s (instrumental) “Taurus.”
After more than a few shocking twists – which brought with them far-reaching implications for music copyright law – a jury found no wrongdoing on Led Zeppelin’s end.
This original verdict was overturned last June, however, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the jurors had rendered their decision after receiving an incorrect definition of copyright infringement. Nevertheless, the 9th Circuit upheld the jury’s determination in March of this year. And with the Supreme Court having refused to hear the case, it appears that the half-decade-long suit may have finally reached its end.
It’s worth noting that Randy California never filed any litigation against Led Zeppelin. But while Randy California’s heirs filed the case, it was reportedly spurred by California’s own dissatisfaction over the songs’ similarities.
At the time of this writing, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones hadn’t taken to social media to acknowledge the high-profile development. But it goes without saying that the remaining Led Zeppelin members, who received the backing of the U.S. government and 123 artists during the case, are happy to have put the matter in the rearview.
A number of copyright infringement complaints have entered the spotlight this year, including a second suit against the estate of Juice WRLD. An under-18 artist alleged in the controversial action that Juice WRLD’s “Lean wit Me” infringed upon his “Ice” track – a claim that the defendants have roundly denied. And back in August, Terrance Hayes named Kendrick Lamar in a massive copyright infringement suit, alleging that the 33-year-old stole his work to create “Loyalty.”
Elsewhere, Lizzo recorded a major victory in her “Truth Hurts” copyright infringement battle that same month, while a different plaintiff yet maintained in July that Meek Mill had lifted the lyrics in “Cold Hearted II” and “100 Summers.” Taylor Swift has arguably had the most difficult run on the copyright infringement front in 2020 – including an allegation (but not a lawsuit) stemming from the similarities between her Folklore cover art and that of a different album.
Additionally, the 30-year-old faces another round in a five-year legal dispute over her alleged infringement upon a track entitled “Haters Gone Hate” in her 2015 hit “Shake It Off.”
No Stairway? Denied!
How many times must this case be tried?