Oct 1, 2018

Stairway to Heaven's opening riff causing a stir

The trustee of the music estate of late guitarist Randy Wolfe has been granted permission to have a California court reconsider whether Stairway to Heaven's opening riff is a breach of copyright.

Mr Skidmore acts as a trustee for the songs created by Randy Wolfe, who was the guitarist in the band Spirit. The specific accusation is that the famous riff that opens Led Zeppelin's biggest hit is a copy of Wolfe's riff in the song Taurus.

At the initial trial of the issue a judge failed to direct the jury that copyright would be infringed if the original works were a "sufficiently original combination" of musical elements. On that basis the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has now directed that a new trial can be ordered.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the lead guitarist and lead vocalist of Led Zeppelin, maintain their claim that they wrote Stairway to Heaven while holed up in a Welsh cottage in 1971.

While Mr Skidmore is unlikely to have a whole lotta love for the Zeppelin duo, it is still unclear whether he will take up the estate's right to a fresh trial. However, it would seem as though the facts are stacked in his favour: Taurus was performed by Mr Wolfe (stage name Randy California) with Spirit while the band toured with Zeppelin before Stairway to Heaven's release.

We will keep an eye on how the matter progresses, and whether the rock and roll veteran's will come out of this without the embarrassing stain of copyright infringement against their names.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.


in: Copyright, EU/International

Share this page