LED ZEPPELIN allegedly ripped off SPIRIT’s “Taurus” to create the now-iconic song.
Last September, a federal appeals court decided unanimously to overturn a jury’s decision that LED ZEPPELIN‘s 1971 classic was not a rip-off of SPIRIT‘s song.
In an amicus brief filed on July 30 at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, more than a hundred artists explained they “have a significant interest” in the case.
The briefing reads: “[We], whose music entertains and enriches the lives of countless people worldwide, will therefore undoubtedly be affected by…the outcome of this critically important case.”
“There was no evidence presented at the LED ZEPPELIN trial that the otherwise unprotected elements that appeared in ‘Taurus’ were presented in such an original pattern or compilation as to garner copyright protection. Instead, the ‘evidence’ of the purported ‘selection and arrangement’ in ‘Taurus’ that also appeared in ‘Stairway To Heaven’ merely consisted of random similarities of commonplace elements, such as the existence of a descending chromatic scale and two-pitch sequences in different melodies that were scattered throughout the beginning of the songs. After filtering out the generic elements or musical commonplaces identified in ‘Taurus’ under the extrinsic test, what remains are two completely different songs.
“More specifically, both songs start with chords that, according to both sides’ experts, are ‘commonplace.’ In fact, both songs include an ‘arpeggio,’ which means ‘breaking’ chords so their constituent pitches are heard separately rather than simultaneously, which, again, both sides’ experts agree is ‘commonplace.’
“Both experts also agree that these ‘broken’ chords’ pitches are played in a different order in ‘Taurus’ than in ‘Stairway To Heaven’, which makes the two songs’ melodies different. In fact, the two songs’ melodies’ lowest pitches are a descending chromatic scale, which is nothing more than the white and black keys of a piano, played in order, right to left. This is not original.”
In June 2016, a Los Angeles jury deliberated for about five hours before deciding unanimously in favor of LED ZEPPELIN.
The verdict in the LED ZEPPELIN case came down within 15 minutes of the jury’s request to re-listen to both SPIRIT‘s “Taurus” and “Stairway To Heaven”. They wanted to hear a section of each song twice, alternating from one to the other. They decided that what they heard wasn’t substantially similar enough to call it copyright infringement.
Immediately following the June 2016 verdict, LED ZEPPELIN‘s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant released a statement saying that they were glad to see the issue resolved.
“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,” they said. “We appreciate our fans’ support, and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us.”