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Led Zeppelin win big in ‘Stairway To Heaven’ copyright case

British rock legends Led Zeppelin have secured a big win in a copyright court case against 60’s band Spirit.

The case had questioned the originality of Zeppelin’s most recognisable anthem Stairway to Heaven but a judge has ruled this did not breach copyright legislation.

The Led Zeppelin-Spirit case has come to an end after years of debate as to whether the infamous opening guitar riff ripped off Spirit’s song Taurus.

Often labelled the biggest band of the 70s, Led Zeppelin have undoubtedly been at the forefront of the British rock scene and leading the heavy metal genre. However, their biggest and most recognisable hit actually came earlier in 1968. Stairway to Heaven, featuring the iconic 50-second guitar riff, is an infamous rock anthem so questions of its origins are a pretty big deal.

Spirit’s representatives attempted to use a comparison of the sheet music as evidence that the riff is too similar to their song Taurus to have been chance. However, the judge has ruled that the common musical features are nothing more than “random similarities,” which will come as a big relief to fans and lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page as they’re spared a whopping 55 million dollars in damages.

The band and fans can now give a sigh of relief, as too will the judges and jurors involved since the trial began in 2016. But this is also a win on a much deeper and more complex industry-wide scale, that sees many artists in the firing line due to extreme copyright legislation.

The U.S copyright law has previously been under fire for its restrictive nature than infringes on creative freedom. So much so, a pair of programmer-musicians Riehl and Rubin have generated a melody database that scams the system in the hope of stopping musicians being sued under laws that “inhibit the creative freedom of artists”.

Now the battles lost and won in the Zeppelin-Spirit feud we can all sit back and relax, right? Well, this certainly won’t be the last time harsh copyright legislations unfairly threaten musicians.  Now that a consensus has been reached on Stairway to Heaven vs. Taurus,  Ed Sheeran’s lawsuit against Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend’s heirs can now begin.

So, although Zeppelin have saved their honour, and wallets, I doubt this will be the last we hear of the matter from die-hard Spirit fans. Let’s just cross our fingers the battle to claim creative ownership of this guitar riff does not last another 50 years.

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March 11, 2020