In a case closely watched by the music industry, a California jury has found that Led Zeppelin’s iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” does not infringe the copyright of the song “Taurus” by the band Spirit. At trial, both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant testified that they had never heard “Taurus” prior to the creation of “Stairway to Heaven.” Interestingly, the jury found otherwise on this issue (see the jury’s answer to question two below), but their verdict ultimately rested on the lack of extrinsic substantial similarity between the two songs.
At trial, the jury was only permitted to hear an expert guitar performance of “Taurus” that was based on the sheet music submitted with the federal copyright registration, rather than the actual studio recording (featured below). Other curiosities of the trial included Robert Plant’s testimony that he cannot read nor write music; and the over 100 objections sustained against counsel for plaintiff Michael Skidmore (the trustee of the estate of songwriter Randy Wolfe). Observers of the trial have commented that the conduct of plaintiff’s counsel appeared to test the limits of both the judge’s and jury’s patience. Plaintiffs have vowed to appeal the jury’s verdict. The case citation is Michael Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin et. al., CV 15-03462-RGK.