Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are in the clear regarding the writing credits for their iconic rock ‘n roll anthem “Stairway to Heaven.” A Los Angeles jury determined that the songwriting duo did not copy the opening to the 1971 Led Zeppelin classic from the 1969 Spirit instrumental, “Taurus,” according to the Wrap. The eight-member jury’s verdict was unanimous.
On Thursday, music journalist Pamela Chelin gave courtroom updates on the jury’s deliberations, first tweeting that they sent a note to the judge and later revealing that they asked to hear both the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus” two times in a row before they announced the verdict.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Led Zeppelin founders Plant and Page smiled and hugged their legal team after the court adjourned.
“We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favor, putting to rest questions about the origins of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and confirming what we have known for 45 years. We appreciate our fans’ support, and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us,” the Led Zeppelin legends said in a joint statement after the verdict was revealed. You can see the full statements from Led Zeppelin an Warner Music Group below.
The trial had been more than 40 years in the making and came 20 years after “Taurus” songwriter Randy “California” Wolfe died while trying to save his son from drowning. Wolfe’s estate slapped the lawsuit on Led Zeppelin two decades after the Spirit founder admitted the issue of the song similarities was a sore spot with him.
During the high-profile trial, Led Zeppelin legends Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were called to testify, and their surviving bandmate, John Paul Jones, also took the witness stand on their behalf.
Under intense questioning by Francis Malofiy, the attorney representing plaintiff Michael Skidmore and the estate of the Spirit frontman, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy page defended himself against allegations that he plagiarized the famous opening chords to Led Zeppelin’s most famous song, and saying he never heard “Taurus” until 2014 when he first heard rumblings about a lawsuit.
Under oath, Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant also detailed the songwriting process for the band’s signature hit, saying he didn’t recall ever seeing Spirit perform “Taurus,” despite the fact that the two bands toured on the same festival circuit in the late 1960s.
Earlier this week, Billboard reported that the defendants argued that plaintiff Michael Skidmore’s lawyer, Francis Malofiy, failed to establish burden of proof during three days of testimony, and Led Zeppelin’s lawyers even requested that the judge halt proceedings, but U.S. district Judge Gary Klausner ignored the request and allowed the jury to deliberate.
While Page denied ever hearing “Taurus” until a few years ago, the jury found that the Led Zeppelin guitarist and his lead singer did have access to the song before writing “Stairway.” Still, the jurors determined that the songs are not substantially similar. In one small victory for the plaintiff, the jury determined that Skidmore owns the copyright to “Taurus,” despite claims by Led Zeppelin’s legal team that he did not.
While Led Zeppelin won this round, they may want to brace for an appeal. Chelin reported that Malofiy expressed frustration after the verdict and said there are many “appealable issues” that he will need to discuss with his client.
The attorney also pointed out that while the jury determined Page and Plant had access to “Taurus,” only sheet music, and not audio from the song, was admissible during the trial.
See a comparison of Led Zeppelin’s song to Spirit’s song in the video below.
[Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images]