SAN FRANCISCO (CelebrityAccess) A U.S. appeals court has re-started the battle over who wrote “Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin or Spirit.
Two years ago, a federal court jury ruled that Led Zeppelin did not, for once, borrow or lift music from a previous source without credit. A longtime challenge to the title was resolved when the jury determined that Led Zeppelin wrote the song on its own and did not lift a chord progression from Randy California, the guitarist for Spirit.
However, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously today that the lower court judge provided erroneous jury instruction that misled the jury about copyright law, according to CBS News.
The judge failed to advise jurors that, while single common scales in a song do not elevate to the status of thievery, various blocks of music, in sequence, that appear similar does.
“This error was not harmless as it undercut testimony by Skidmore’s expert that Led Zeppelin copied a chromatic scale that had been used in an original manner,” panel member Judge Richard Paez said.
The panel also found another jury instruction misleading, according to CBS News.
In the 2016 trial, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page told the jury that the “Stairway To Heaven” chord progression “has been around forever” and can even be found in the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from the movie “Mary Poppins.”
Randy California thought that the songs sounded familiar enough for him to get some recognition.
“Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment,” California said in an interview with Listener. “It’s an exact… I’d say it was a rip-off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said, “Thank you,” never said, “Can we pay you some money for it?” It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe some day their conscience will make them do something about it. I don’t know. There are funny business dealings between record companies, managers, publishers, and artists. But when artists do it to other artists, there’s no excuse for that. I’m mad! [laughs].”
The lawsuit was originally filed by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the estate of California, real name Randy Wolfe.
A comparison follows:
Some have noted the similarity between Eagles’ “Hotel California” and a song by Jethro Tull called “We Used To Know,” but the latter’s Ian Anderson has always dismissed the similarities.