The legal history of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is set to get even more complicated after US judges announced plans to review the decision on whether the band stole the iconic song’s opening guitar riff.
The 1971 Led Zeppelin track has been at the centre of a copyright battle for several years.
The British rock giants triumphed back in 2016 when a Los Angeles jury ruled that ‘Stairway To Heaven’ did not infringe on ‘Taurus’, an instrumental track first penned by Spirit guitarist Randy California for the band’s 1968 debut album.
But a San Francisco court subsequently ruled that an earlier trial should have heard the two songs, instead of having a jury making their ruling based on the musical score or sheet music which showed chords and scale.
The 2016 trial in Los Angeles saw personal testimonies from Page and Plant, with jurors concluding that the riff they were accused of stealing was not entirely similar to the opening of ‘Stairway To Heaven’.
Crucially, however, they were not given the chance to hear both songs during the legal proceedings.
Last September, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the errors by the trial judge meant that a new trial was required – a decision directly contested by Led Zeppelin.
On Monday, a panel of 11 judges from the appeals court agreed to hear Led Zeppelin’s appeal over the decision.
Representing the estate of the late Randy California (Woolfe), a lawyer said the appeals court panel would also reconsider the decision on whether to broaden the copyright protections for Taurus.
It’s expected that another hearing will take place in San Francisco in September.
Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin recently announced a new documentary to mark their 50th anniversary.