Led Zeppelin Wins Copyright Case Over Stairway To Heaven
from the copyright-law-is-random dept
Back in April, we talked about the fact that the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page for copyright infringement over “Stairway to Heaven” was moving forward to a jury trail, and how ridiculous it was. As we noted, the song was written in 1970, and it’s a bit crazy to argue after all these decades that there’s infringement. But, more importantly, the similarities between Stairway and the Spirit song “Taurus” were just a few common notes that were predated by many artists, including Bach’s Bouree in E Minor. Still, as we’d seen with the Blurred Lines case, when copyright cases go to juries over song similarities, they often turn out wacky. The intricacies of copyright law are tossed out the window and often “hey, these sound similar” seems to win out.
So it’s fairly surprising, honestly, that the jury unanimously sided with Led Zeppelin in this case, saying that while the copyright on Taurus was valid and they believed that Plant and Page had likely heard the song (the two bands toured together, even though Jimmy Page testified that he didn’t believe he’d ever heard “Taurus”), there was not substantial similarity between the two songs.
Again, this is pretty surprising, because if you take an unsophisticated audience and just play the clips of the two tracks next to each other, it’s not hard to hear them and say “sure, those are kinda similar.” About the best explanation I’ve seen for why the jury decided this way in this case, was that the jury just liked Page and Plant more than the plaintiff — Michael Skidmore — who was the “trustee” of the estate of Randy Wolfe, the deceased musician who wrote Taurus. But, when copyright decisions are being made based on who’s more likable, that doesn’t sound like a particularly functional copyright system.