Stairway to Court: Zeppelin’s Biggest Hit May Be Tarnished by Copyright Infringement
When you think of the band Led Zeppelin, chances are the song “Stairway to Heaven” comes to mind. The song is arguably one of the band’s best. But now the iconic anthem has landed the band in hot water. Two Zeppelin band members were sued by the Trustee of Randy Wolfe, late guitarist of the band Spirit. On May 10, a jury will decide if Stairway to Heaven infringes the copyright of Spirit’s song “Taurus.”
This is not the first time Zeppelin has been sued for infringement. They’ve come under fire for songs similar to those of Anne Bredon and Willie Dixon in the past. The central issue here is the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven.” Representatives of Spirit claim that Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page used Taurus as inspiration. While Zeppelin denies this, the situation seems fishy. The two bands played multiple shows together in the late 1960s, despite Zeppelin’s denials that they never heard Spirit play. And it is undisputed that Taurus was performed years before Stairway.
But in Zeppelin’s defense, cases like this are really not all that surprising because, as musicians know all too well, there are only so many chords and arrangements available in modern music. In fact, the music group Axis of Awesome wrote a song spoofing this phenomenon—The 4 Chord Song. The group plays bits of songs that use the same 4 chords in a row, resulting in successful covers of over 70 songs. So it’s at least possible that Plant and Page could have heard the song, and even unwittingly incorporated it into their work. Indeed, that is what happened to former Beatle George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” being found to infringe The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” in 1976. And more recently, a jury decided Robin Thicke and Pharrell William’s hit “Blurred Lines” had infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” to the tune of $7.3 million awarded to Gaye’s estate.
In the Stairway/Taurus dispute, Judge Gary Klausner found that the similarities appear to “transcend this [4-chord] core structure.” Simply put, taken as a whole, the songs appear too similar to chalk it up as mere coincidence. Zeppelin may learn from these past cases and settle with Spirit before this one reaches the jury. If not, it will be interesting to see one of Zeppelin’s most popular songs becomes tarnished by copyright infringement. movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 2017 streaming
Listen to the links below and decide for yourself: