Led Zeppelin Moves to Dismiss Case, Cites Mary Poppins as Inspiration

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 21, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Legal counsel for Led Zeppelin urged a Los Angeles federal district court judge to dismiss the current copyright suit against the band over allegations that they stole a riff from the song "Taurus" by Spirit.

Based on what we know now of the suit, it appears that issues of fact could still be fleshed out -- despite our view that reasonable minds might disagree about the "substantial similarity" between "Taurus" and "Stairway to Heaven."

Led Zeppelin Stole for Stairway?

The suit was brought against guitarist Jimmy Page and fellow member Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. In sum, the complaint alleges that the hit "Stairway to Heaven" was inspired and written by the defendants after they went on tour with Randy California of Spirit sometime in the late 60s. The suit accuses the pair of stealing key notes from "Taurus," and claims that the theft of ideas is provable by paying close attention to the "substantial similarities" between the songs.

Lawyer Up

The defendants have attempted to parry the attack with a variety of theories. One of them calls into question whether or not the current trustee of the Randy California estate even has standing to sue. The fact that the suit even got as far as it did, defendants claim, means that the copyright protections are rightly in the hands of another -- namely, Spirit's publisher.

Four Notes and Many Dollars Later

The allegedly offending set of notes is the famous chromatic four-chord riff which is a signature mark of the song. The pair of defendants balk at the idea that they were inspired by any association with Spirit, that they only heard "Taurus" some 20 years ago (well after "Stairway" was published), and that they probably drew more inspiration from Mary Poppins than the plaintiff. No plagiarism had been proved according to the defendants, and dismissal of the suit was proper because the plaintiff failed to prove the requisite level of similarity.

No word yet if the court will grant the motion for judgment pretrial.

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