Stairway to Heaven Back in Court

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Led Zeppelin in London in 1968

Back in 2014 Led Zeppelin made the news, when the trustee of the band Spirit tried to sue Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin for stealing the opening of the song Stairway to Heaven. The case made national headlines across the country and in 2016 Plant and Page beat the case and did not have to pay any money. Cases of copyright infringement like these always bring attention to how complex and grey these laws are and how hard it sometimes is for these musicians. Big names like Katy Perry and Robin Thicke have had to pay multiple millions of dollars after being accused of copyright infringement but these laws are not easy to interpret. 

When listening to both songs, you can hear some resemblances but just sounding similar is not enough for a lawsuit. When you strip both songs down to their bare bones of just notes and melodies that is when you can make a judgement on whether one song copied the other. Cases like this shine light on how hard it is to make a call whether someone “stole” someone else’s work or used it for inspiration for their song. 

Looking towards the future of music and copyright law it seems like the area between the two keep becoming more and more grey. Artist since the dawn of time have used others for inspiration or cord and melodies that have been around for so long any musician can use them. The band Axis of Awesome brought showed that the same four chords are used in mostly all popular songs of the last decade but is not copyright infringement because those cords have been used forever and no one can own them. Using this mentality there could never be a copyright claim because music is constantly building on the works of others. This makes even the blatant theft of songs and melodies even harder to sue someone for. With new technologies coming out today this makes spotting a theft even easier for these bands and hopefully can help bands get the recognition they deserve.



One thought on “Stairway to Heaven Back in Court

  1. This story is super interesting. I think it’s always hard to determine which songs are “original” and which aren’t. I think that more artist should automatically give credit to the song that they referenced or a song they created that even sounds similar. Stories like these can be avoided if there was credit given from the beginning. Overall, I enjoyed this read.


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