By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – Led Zeppelin on Monday persuaded a U.S. appeals court to reinstate a jury verdict that it did not steal the opening guitar riff for “Stairway to Heaven” from an obscure song written four years earlier.
In a 9-2 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant’s and guitarist Jimmy Page’s 1971 rock anthem did not infringe “Taurus,” a song written by guitarist Randy Wolfe of the band Spirit.
The case has been among the music industry’s most closely watched copyright cases, potentially exposing Plant and Page to millions of dollars of damages.
Wolfe, who performed as Randy California, drowned in 1997, and the case was brought by a trustee for his estate.
Lawyers for the trustee and Led Zeppelin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The trustee had argued that “Stairway” and “Taurus” had similar chord progressions, and that Page may have written “Stairway” after hearing “Taurus” while Led Zeppelin and Spirit were touring together.
In the June 2016 jury verdict, jurors found that while Plant and Page had access to “Taurus,” its riff was not intrinsically similar to the opening of “Stairway.”
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