Led Zeppelin has won in the “Stairway to Heaven” copyright lawsuit. Again.
Yes, this stupid, futile lawsuit has been ongoing this entire time.
To recap, the estate of Randy California (he of the band Spirit) have carried on his fight to prove that Jimmy Page ripped off a Spirit track called “Taurus” for the opening bits of “Stairway to Heaven.” For reasons too many to mention, the accusations were bullshit, but the case has been in front of the courts for years.
However, Zep won an appeal this week. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held up the original 2016 ruling that “Stairway” did not rip off “Taurus.” In the process, though, the court set a new precedent, something that’s always interesting.
It has to do with something called the “inverse ratio rule.” Basically, if you can prove that the offending party had a lot of access to the infringed work, the less you have to prove “substantial similarities” between the two songs.
In the case of Spirit/Zeppelin, the tour bands toured together in the late 60s, a time when Spirit was performing “Taurus.” That meant (potentially) that Jimmy Page got to hear “Taurus” a lot during that period and was (allegedly) inspired to use that guitar arpeggio for the intro of “Stairway.” Given the exposure Page (allegedly) had to “Taurus,” the prosecution shouldn’t have to prove as many technical similarities as it otherwise need to.
In one of the cases, the judge did not instruct the jury on the nature of the inverse ratio rule, which led to a conviction. But with this appeal, the Ninth Circuit threw everything out, saying that the rule “defies logic, and creates uncertainty for the courts and the parties, we take this opportunity to abrogate the rule in the Ninth Circuit and overrule our prior cases to the contrary.”
So we’re done, right? No. The Spirit team has the option of appealing to all judges on the Ninth Circuit or taking this thing all the way to the Supreme Court. We’ll see, then.
(Via Rolling Stone)
One thought on “Led Zeppelin has won in the “Stairway to Heaven” copyright lawsuit. Again.”
Please make sure no one plays them this song from Crow, dated 1969: