Iconic rock band Led Zeppelin recently came under after accusations surfaced saying that they stole portions of “Stairway to Heaven” from “Taurus”, a song by a band called Spirit. A trial followed, with both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant appearing in court to plead their case. After a week of testimony, the verdict is finally in and the Los Angeles jury has found in Led Zeppelin’s favor.
Page and Plant claimed that they have never heard of “Taurus” despite touring with Spirit, however the plaintiff’s attorney, Francis Malofiy, argued that Page had access to the album recording of “Taurus” and had it in his record collection.
In a statement released to Rolling Stone by Malofiy, he says:
Justice is about the search for the truth; it escaped us.
For Led Zeppelin, they won on a technicality—they should be proud of that.
For Plaintiff the jury’s verdict is disappointing, but largely determined by one ruling of the court: Plaintiff was not permitted to play the album recording of Taurus, which Jimmy Page had in his record collection. This ruling, which limited Plaintiff to using the sheet music deposited in the Copyright Office, effectively tied our hands behind our back. Needless to say, we do not believe it is legally correct or logically sound.
In essence, this case was tried in an alternate reality. The jury never heard the album recording of Taurus that Jimmy Page heard and used to create Stairway to Heaven. Instead it heard a very basic piece of sheet music that no one, including Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, had ever seen. It was an artificial comparison that bore little relation to the reality of the claim.
It is important to realize, however, that the jury agreed very clearly with Plaintiff that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had access to Taurus, and discounted their denials that they had never heard Taurus before. For Led Zeppelin the case was about their legacy and reputation; for Randy California it was about credit. In this regard, neither party won.
Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant.
Here there was injustice.
The “Stairway to Heaven” trial came soon after the high profile “Blurred Lines” lawsuit.