UK rockers Led Zeppelin have won a lawsuit after jurors found the opening guitar passage from its 1971 hit "Stairway to Heaven" had not been lifted from US band Spirit. The song is one of the top-selling of all time.
After a weeklong federal court trial in Los Angeles, the jury found substantial differences between "Stairway to Heaven" and Spirit's instrumental track "Taurus."
It found that lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page had had access to "Taurus," a song written in 1967, but that the riff was not intrinsically similar to the opening chords of "Stairway."
Page, 72, and singer Robert Plant, 67, both wearing suits and with their long hair pulled back in ponytails, hugged their lawyers after prevailing.
"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," Page and Plant said in a joint statement.
Spirit never dies
Michael Skidmore - trustee for the estate of the late Randy Wolfe, the Spirit guitarist and "Taurus" songwriter, sued in 2014 over the "Taurus" chord progression.
"The reality is that we proved access, but (the jury) could never hear what (Page and Plant) had access to," said trust attorney Francis Malofiy, who called the verdict "sad and disappointing.'
"It's bizarre," he said.
In closing arguments he criticized Page and Plant's "selective" memories and "convenient" truths.
A new copyright challenging culture?
Legal experts believe the unanimous verdict could now narrow the grounds on which future copyright infringement challenges will be brought in the music industry.
The "Stairway" case comes a year after a federal jury in LA found singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had plagiarized Motown's Marvin Gaye in their hit single "Blurred Lines," with the jury awarding Gaye's family $7.4 million (6.6 million euros), later reduced to $5.3 million.
"This decision created a sharper, clearer line in terms of what is protectable and what is not in music," music industry attorney William Hochberg said.
jbh/bk (Reuters, AP)