Led Zeppelin faces retrial over music copyright assertion

Long Lunch 03/10/2018
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page sit in the 2016 trial.

Iconic rock band Led Zeppelin will face another trial over whether its 1971 riff in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was plagiarised.

Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page were accused of stealing the opening to the song from the American band, Spirit.

Last week, a US Court of Appeals threw out a 2016 verdict in favour of Led Zeppelin, and ordered a retrial.

Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Spirit’s late guitarist Randy Wolfe, alleged in 2015 that the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ riff was copied from Spirit’s ‘Taurus’ track.

Randy Wolfe wrote "Taurus" in 1966 – with Led Zeppelin opening for Spirit in the US just two years later.

Forensic musicologist Judith Finell, who aided in the lawsuit against Robin Thicke’s 2013 ‘Blurred Lines’ track, told RadioLIVE that such accusations are relatively common in the age of social media.  

“This started to occur in the 1980s when hip-hop music became very popular and was basically built on taking excerpt from earlier recordings – sometimes deliberately making them very recognisable,” Ms Finell said.

The original jury ruled in favour of the Led Zeppelin musicians, stating that there were substantial differences between the two songs in question.

But the judges recently found that the jurors had received some "erroneous and prejudicial" instructions in the lower court.

The case was been sent back to the Los Angeles court for a retrial.

Listen to the full interview with Judith Finell above.

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