Led Zeppelin Wins Copyright Infringement Suit Over Opening Lick of 'Stairway to Heaven'

The band had been accused of stealing the riff from the song "Taurus" by Spirit.

BySherene Tagharobi and Lesley Messer
June 23, 2016, 1:24 PM

— -- A jury today found that Led Zeppelin did not plagiarize the opening riff of "Stairway to Heaven."

After five days of testimony from music experts, a former Spirit band member and the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and after a day of deliberation, the eight-person jury came back with the verdict that there was no copyright infringement, saying there was no "extrinsic similarity between Spirit's 'Taurus' and 'Stairway.'"

After the decision was announced, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant released a statement saying, "We are grateful for the jury's conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favor, putting to rest questions about the origins of 'Stairway to Heaven' and confirming what we have known for 45 years. We appreciate our fans' support and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us."

Warner Music Group, which distributes Led Zeppelin's music, issued a statement reading, "We are pleased that the jury found in favor of Led Zeppelin, reaffirming the true origins of 'Stairway to Heaven.'"

Francis Malofiy, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said at a press conference, "We feel justice wasn't served ... [The] jury never got to hear the real evidence in this case, and that's real frustrating."

In 2014, Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania claiming that Led Zeppelin stole the opening riff of "Stairway to Heaven" from "Taurus" by Spirit.

Wolfe, who used the stage name Randy California, was the composer of "Taurus," and his former bandmate Jay Ferguson testified that Spirit played at several concerts with Led Zeppelin.

However, Led Zeppelin's attorneys denied that the band stole the riff and claimed that even if its members did, "Stairway to Heaven" would have been successful in its own right. Any similarities to "Taurus" were coincidental, the attorneys argued, and one expert testified that descending chord progressions, used in both songs, have been popular for decades. In his closing statement, Zeppelin attorney Peter Anderson reiterated his claim that the copyright of "Taurus" is owned by Hollenbeck music, not Spirit.

Malofiy told ABC News in April that he was seeking unspecified damages. In his closing statement he said that damages should be $3 million to $13.5 million and that Spirit deserves a third of credit for the song.

The defense felt otherwise. According to reports, during the trial, one of Led Zeppelin's accountants testified that its guitarist Page has earned $615,000 from the song since 2011 — the window for awarding damages — and that singer Plant earned $532,000.

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