For the past few months, the members of Led Zeppelin have been going through an intense civil trial, arguing that they didn’t steal large portions of “Stairway To Heaven,” probably their best-known song, from “Taurus,” a 1968 instrumental by the band Spirit. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant both appeared in court to argue their case, but it didn’t look good for them. No less an authority than Stephen Colbert said that Zeppelin were “screwed.” But the verdict is in, and a Los Angeles jury has found in Led Zeppelin’s favor.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the verdict came out today, after a week of testimony. Page and Plant — both of whom claimed they’d never heard “Taurus,” despite time spent touring with Spirit — were on hand when the verdict was announced. Jury deliberations took less than a day. And after the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit, anyone who’s ever written a song that sounded a bit like another song must be breathing a sigh of relief.
UPDATE: The plaintiff’s attorney Francis Malofiy has released this statement about the verdict to Rolling Stone…
Justice is about the search for the truth; it escaped us.
For Led Zeppelin, they won on a technicality—they should be proud of that.
For Plaintiff the jury’s verdict is disappointing, but largely determined by one ruling of the court: Plaintiff was not permitted to play the album recording of Taurus, which Jimmy Page had in his record collection. This ruling, which limited Plaintiff to using the sheet music deposited in the Copyright Office, effectively tied our hands behind our back. Needless to say, we do not believe it is legally correct or logically sound.
In essence, this case was tried in an alternate reality. The jury never heard the album recording of Taurus that Jimmy Page heard and used to create Stairway to Heaven. Instead it heard a very basic piece of sheet music that no one, including Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, had ever seen. It was an artificial comparison that bore little relation to the reality of the claim.
It is important to realize, however, that the jury agreed very clearly with Plaintiff that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had access to Taurus, and discounted their denials that they had never heard Taurus before. For Led Zeppelin the case was about their legacy and reputation; for Randy California it was about credit. In this regard, neither party won.
Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant.
Here there was injustice.