March 9 (Reuters) – On Monday, rock band Led Zeppelin persuaded a U.S. appeals court to reinstate a jury verdict that it did not steal the opening guitar riff for “Stairway to Heaven” from an obscure song written four years earlier.
In a 9-2 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said lead singer Robert Plant’s and guitarist Jimmy Page’s 1971 rock anthem did not infringe “Taurus,” written by guitarist Randy Wolfe of the band Spirit.
“The trial and appeal process has been a long climb up the ‘Stairway to Heaven,'” Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown wrote for the majority.
Wolfe, who performed as Randy California, drowned in 1997, but a trustee for his estate sought damages potentially reaching millions of dollars.
Wolfe’s trustee, Michael Skidmore, said “Stairway” and “Taurus” had similar chord progressions, and that Page may have written “Stairway” after hearing “Taurus” while Led Zeppelin and Spirit toured together.
In a June 2016 verdict, jurors found that while Plant and Page had access to “Taurus,” its riff was not intrinsically similar to “Stairway to Heaven.”