Led Zeppelin did not plagiarize “Stairway to Heaven”

So says the legal system.

According to The Washington Post:

Led Zeppelin’s guitar wizard Jimmy Page and charismatic lead singer Robert Plant both claimed that they hadn’t ever heard “Taurus” until recently; Page said he only discovered after his son-in-law alerted him to growing Internet buzz about similarities between the two songs. Along with keyboardist John Paul Jones, Page and Plant recalled experimenting with “Stairway’s” melody for the first time at the rural Headley Grange recording studio. The jury ultimately concluded that the band probably did have access to the tune. But that didn’t matter: The songs simply weren’t similar enough to prove copyright infringement, the jury found.

So great news for Led Zeppelin, not so great news for the estate of Randy California and the band Spirit.

I agree with the jury on this one; I think the songs are distinct enough that there isn’t a case for copyright infringement. It is an interesting and complicated issue though, and there are plenty of other cases of plagiarism being floated right now that could go either way. With the ubiquity of certain melodies and chord progressions, and the fact that music is widely accessible digitally these days, these are cases we’re only going to see more of in the future.

Let this be a reminder to all songwriters and musicians to stay on top of your copyrights, even if you aren’t a professional! Google that shit and make sure it stays yours.

We are Led Zeppelin, and we don't give a shit (circa 1970).

We are Led Zeppelin, and we don’t give a shit, legally-speaking (circa 1977).

 

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