June 23, 2016

Federal jury decides in favor of Led Zeppelin.

In the "Stairway to Heaven" trial.
Jurors were not played the Taurus recording, which contains a section that sounds very similar to the instantly recognizable start of Stairway. Instead, they were played guitar and piano renditions by musicians on both sides of the case. Not surprisingly, the plaintiff's version on guitar sounded more like Stairway than the defense version on piano.

Experts for both sides dissected both compositions, agreeing mainly that they shared a descending chord progression that dates back three centuries as a building block in lots of songs....

Jurors never heard a note from Page or Plant live, but they were treated to lo-fi vintage recordings of the band creating the song, renditions on guitar and piano by other musicians and, finally, the full recording of one of rock's most enduring anthems.

Page, 72, bobbed his head and moved to the tune while Plant, 67, sat still. Both men wore sharp suits, white shirts and ties throughout the trial and had their hair pulled back in neat ponytails. They didn't chat with anyone in the gallery, including several fans, and were escorted by personal bodyguards to the restroom and in and out of the federal courthouse each day....

18 comments:

Fernandinande said...

Right answer.

shiloh said...

Details of the case aside, they are/were celebrities. Same reason O.J. beat his double homicide charge. The cult of celebrity looms large in America.

vicari valdez said...

i haven't heard the song in question, jake holmes and a bunch of other old blues guys would definitely have a solid case against them.

vicari valdez said...

*but

Limited blogger said...

The consummate 'Prom theme'. Ours was "In the Still of the Night"; there was a do-wop revival going on, what can I say?

Geoff Matthews said...

I would like Jimmy Paige to get nailed to the copyright door, given his liberal use of co-opting the co-author position for songs.

eddie willers said...

Somebody owes George Harrison an apology.

Peggy Coffey said...

Robert Plant hates that song. He hates to perform it, won't unless he really has to. Since Led Zeppelin is retired, Plant will not for he dong.

rightguy2 said...

I thought this lawsuit was completely DOA as I have always understood that you cannot copyright a chord progression, as you can a melody/tune or a lyric.

BTW, Spirit was a great band. I had more of their records than Led Zep, back in the day.

Michael K said...

I would not recognize either song.

Now, if you want to talk about Seguidilla from Carmen.....

Fabi said...

Interesting that two commenters have not heard the song. Good, bad, or indifferent -- I thought it was ubiquitous.

Fritz said...

"25 Years Ago: New Mexico Radio Station Plays ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for 24 Hours"

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/stairway-to-heaven-24-hours-a-day/?trackback=tsmclip

Char Char Binks said...

Jimmy Page, the third-best guitarist in the Yardbirds, and second-best in J. G. Skiffleworth, stole everything he ever "wrote".

@vicari valdez

Jake Homes wasn't a bluesman, more of a folk singer-songwriter, or folk-rocker, and Page stole "Dazed and Confused" from him.

@eddie willers

Why would anyone apologize to Harrison? Because he copied "He's So Fine" and called it "My Sweet Lord"?

William said...

The song made a half billion dollars, and no one can understand what the lyrics mean. Can you imagine how much money this song would have made if it were comprehensible?

EMD said...

Can you imagine how much money this song would have made if it were comprehensible?

Less?

Jupiter said...

shiloh said...
"Details of the case aside, they are/were celebrities. Same reason O.J. beat his double homicide charge. The cult of celebrity looms large in America."

Right idea, wrong example. If Randy Craig Wolfe were black, he would have won. Only black people can own chord progressions.

WVFarmLife said...

I went and listened to the two songs on youtube, both played on the guitar, and the first thing that strikes me is that Stairway to Heaven is a significantly better song than Taurus.

Beyond that we are talking about a small portion of each that is similar,
and even within that small portion there are substantial differences. I lack
the proper terminology but within this portion there's a track or sequence of
notes that's essential the same in both, except that in the Led Zeppelin version
there's another track or sequence of notes laid in on top of that common portion.

That combination transforms the experience so that even though there's a recognizable common element it overall adds up to a significantly different thing.

Since the two bands performed together it seems to me that the author of Stairway
to Heaven most likely had heard Taurus and to some extent had been influenced by it. But it need not have been a conscious awareness.

Given the many differences between the two songs and the common elements that
so many songs in general share, I'm pleased that the jury made the decision that it
did.

A different ruling, if consistently applied, would have led to chaos in the music industry, as most music, by a similar reasoning, would be called plagiarism of
earlier pieces.

Iapetus said...

A comparative analysis of the sheet music was posted by Eric Brook at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UNbXL27cwc. I know very little about music, but Brook's analysis seems very persuasive to me. He points out that aside from the descending minor scale baseline, which was already popular in the 16 and 1700s, and also the opening triad of notes, there's little in common between the two songs. That same ascending triad is repeated several times in Taurus, but after the opening in Stairway it appears twice again only in descending order.