Trump administration backs Led Zeppelin in Stairway To Heaven legal case

Led Zeppelin (Image credit: Dick Barnatt/Redferns - Getty)

As the Stairway To Heaven legal case prepares to head back to court, Led Zeppelin (opens in new tab) have received the backing of the Trump administration.

Led Zeppelin were found not to have plagiarised Spirit’s 1967 track Taurus at the original court hearing back in 2016 (opens in new tab), in a case which centred around the descending chord sequence at the beginning of the 1971 Led Zeppelin song.

However, in September 2018, a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals found that the jury at the original trial were improperly instructed on a number of issues, resulting in the possibility of a second trial. 

Lawyers representing the band subsequently lodged an appeal asking for a larger group of judges to rehear the case – and that request was granted, with a panel of 11 judges set to sit in San Francisco in September.

NBC News (opens in new tab) now report that the US Justice Department have submitted “friend of court” papers which say that the trial judge in 2016 was correct in his final decision. He ruled that at the time Spirit was recorded in 1967, it fell under an older law which only provided protection for the sheet music. 

Congress changed the law in 1972 to also cover sound recordings.

Earlier this month, more than 100 artists pledged their support for Led Zeppelin (opens in new tab), saying that ruling in favour of Michael Skidmore, who originally brought the case on behalf of late Spirit songwriter Randy California, would harm the creativity of “the music industry in general” and would cause “excessive and unwarranted litigation” in the future.

Skidmore’s attorney, Francis A. Malofiy rejected the artists’ filing saying: “The brief is unimpressive and dull. It represents 123 songwriters out of roughly 500,000 – a whopping .02%! It’s really nothing more than a blast piece for the industry.”

The case is scheduled to take place next month.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent more than 30 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. After initially joining our news desk in the summer of 2014, he moved to the e-commerce team full-time in 2020. He maintains Louder’s buyer’s guides, scouts out the best deals for music fans and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and has previous written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky. Scott grew up listening to rock and prog, cutting his teeth on bands such as Marillion and Magnum before his focus shifted to alternative and post-punk in the late 80s. His favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Drab Majesty, but he also still has a deep love of Rush.