Stairway to Heaven and copyright infringement
The music industry is no stranger to cases of intellectual property infringement. Walker Morris was recently successful in the Court of Appeal in a dispute involving the well-known 1970s band Wishbone Ash. Procol Harum’s seminal Whiter Shade of Pale was the subject of protracted court proceedings a few years ago. And now, the anthemic Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin, appears to be heading for the courts.
The success of Stairway to Heaven is hard to overstate. In 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio magazine published an estimate that the song had earned at least $562m (£327m). The story goes that Jimmy Page first picked the chords of what became the band’s signature tune in the Welsh countryside in 1970. However, it is now being argued that the chords were actually first written in 1968 by the guitarist of a relatively unknown Californian band, Spirit, in a song called Taurus. Historians of the Californian music scene in the late 1960s seem in no doubt that the paths of the two bands would have crossed during 1969…
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