Case closed: Led Zeppelin victorious in 'Stairway to Heaven' copyright dispute
Led Zeppelin will finally be able to put their "Stairway to Heaven" copyright case behind them after being declared victors yet again on Monday. The Supreme Court declined to review the case, opting instead to uphold a March ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco in favor of the legendary rock group's founders, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who composed the track in 1971.
The lawsuit goes back to 2014, when Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Spirit guitarist Randy California (born Randy Wolfe), filed a copyright lawsuit against Led Zeppelin due to the alleged similarities between the intro from "Stairway to Heaven" and Spirit's 1968 song "Taurus." The groups toured North American together from 1968 to 1969.
"People always ask me why 'Stairway to Heaven' sounds exactly like 'Taurus,' which was released two years earlier," California said in the liner notes of a 1996 reissue of Sprit's self-titled debut album. "I know Led Zeppelin also played 'Fresh Garbage' in their live set. They opened up for us on their first American tour."
A judge agreed that there were enough similarities between the songs to proceed with the case in April 2016, though a jury disagreed with his ruling just two months later. An appeal from Skidmore led to a rehearing due to multiple issues, including a complaint that the jury members were not able to hear "Taurus" before making their decision. This took the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the aforementioned March hearing that was upheld Monday.
Former Spirit bassist Mark Andes claimed in 2014 that California never filed his own lawsuit against Plant and Page due to a lack of resources. California drowned in 1997, at 45, while saving his 12-year-old son, Quinn, who'd been caught in a riptide in Hawaii. Quinn survived.