Music | October 6, 2020 11:26 am

Led Zeppelin Win “Stairway to Heaven” Plagiarism Case

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning a previous appeals court ruling stands

Jimmy Page playing “Stairway to Heaven” on a double neck guitar
Jimmy Page playing “Stairway to Heaven” on a Gibson EDS-1275 double neck guitar in 1983.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Led Zeppelin’s lengthy legal battle over “Stairway to Heaven” is finally over. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case, meaning that the previous March appeals court ruling in favor of the band will stand, as CNN reported.

The six-year plagiarism case against lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page claimed that the duo had lifted the iconic opening guitar riff to the 1971 hit from a song called “Taurus” written by the late Randy Wolfe of the band Spirit.

Wolfe, who performed as Randy California, died in 1997, but his estate sued on his behalf over the riff. However, this spring the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that, “We have never extended copyright protection to just a few notes. Instead we have held that ‘a four-note sequence common in the music field’ is not the copyrightable expression in a song.”

Francis Malofiy, an attorney who represented Wolfe’s estate, said Monday that the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case meant that Led Zeppelin had “won on a technicality,” but he added that the estate still achieved its goal with the suit.

“Today, the world knows that: 1) Randy California wrote the introduction to ‘Stairway to Heaven’; 2) Led Zeppelin are the greatest art thieves of all time; and 3) Courts are as imperfect as rock stars,” he said.

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