Stairway to Heaven plagiarism case going to appeal
19 March 2017
It's been a year since Robert Plant and Jimmy Page beat the lawsuit that was brought by the estate of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California over the song Stairway to Heaven.
During his lifetime, California knew that there was a similarity between the guitar line in Stairway and the one in the Spirit track Taurus and realized that it was entirely possible that the two Zeppelin writers could have heard the song while they were opening for Spirit in the late-60's; however, he chose to never pursue it in court.
After his death, the estate of California decided to sue Plant and Page for plagiarism, claiming they either consciously or unconsciously remembered the part that they heard four years earlier; however, the courts did not agree with the claim and cleared the Zeppelin members.
That decision came after the judge made a number of controversial decisions on what could be allowed during the trial, including not letting the plaintiff's lawyers play audio recordings of Taurus, instead insisting that the jury make their judgement from the sheet music.
It was that ruling that is the basis of an appeal by California's estate in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, alleging that the judge was in error by not letting the jury here the recorded song. The 90-page filing also says that the judge wrongly defined "originality" and misinformed the jury on copyright law in his instructions prior to deliberations and that he limited the plaintiff's case to ten hours of testimony which could have violated the right to due process.
Lawyers for California's estate are seeking a reversal of the previous verdict and a new trial.