A jury has ruled that Led Zeppelin did not plagiarise the opening chords of Stairway to Heaven from Spirit track Taurus.
The jury came to their decision on a second day of deliberations at a Los Angeles courtroom after Judge Gary Klausner had heard heated closing arguments from lawyers representing both parties.
Led Zep were accused of having copied Spirit’s Taurus, which was released three years before 1971 anthem Stairway To Heaven. The case centred on the descending chord sequence at the beginning of the Led Zep song.
The jury ruled today that Taurus “was not intrinsically similar” to Stairway To Heaven’s opening.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page – who were both in court throughout the proceedings – say in a statement: “We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favour, 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.”
Record label Warner add: “At Warner Music Group, supporting our artists and protecting their creative freedom is paramount. We are pleased that the jury found in favour of Led Zeppelin, reaffirming the true origins of Stairway To Heaven.
“Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands in history, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are peerless songwriters who created many of rock’s most influential and enduring songs.”
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Led Zep frontman Plant and guitarist Page both gave evidence at the trial. Bassist John Paul Jones, whose name was dropped from the case before it began, also gave evidence last week.
Judge Klausner admonished both counsels during the summing-up phase yesterday, saying at one point: “Any other catfights or anything else?”
In his closing statement, Francis Malofiy, representing Spirit, returned to a statement he’d made when the trial opened last week, saying the matter rested on the concept “give credit where credit is due.” He went on: “We respect and value creation. ‘Creation’ does not mean copying. ‘Creation’ means doing something that is unique and memorable.”
But Led Zep’s solicitor Peter Anderson argued that Malofiy had failed to prove that Page or Plant had ever heard the earlier work, saying: “There has been no evidence showing that Taurus was performed at any performance where members of Led Zeppelin were in attendance.”
Malofiy had asked the eight-person jury to grant one-third of the writing credits to the estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy California, who wrote Taurus.