Led Zeppelin trial: Spirit appeal Stairway To Heaven ruling

Brief argues series of erroneous jury instructions to blame for Led Zeppelin’s victory in plagiarism case

Jimmy Page grips his Rock’N’Roll Soul Award with pride. “It’s a real honour to get it, [but] as far as whatever I’ve managed to do in music, I’ve learned from records and my heroes,” he said humbly. “I’m only just passing on the baton. I got the music and passed it on. There it is, for everyone.”

Lawyers acting on behalf of Spirit have filed an appeal with a US federal court to argue against June 2016’s verdict that sided with Led Zeppelin in the Stairway To Heaven plagiarism case.

The 90-page brief filed last week at the US court of appeals for the ninth circuit, argues a series of “erroneous” jury instructions were to blame for the verdict. At the centre of last year’s case was the accusation Jimmy Page, when writing the intro to Stairway To Heaven, ripped off Spirit’s instrumental Taurus, which predates the British band’s mega hit.

It was ruled in the 2016 case that the two songs were not “substantially similar” although the new appeal argues that the reason the jury did not hear similarities was because they were not allowed to hear the specific version of Taurus that Page allegedly copied from.

“The most important of these errors was that the trial court refused to let the jury hear the full and complete composition of Taurus embodied in the sound recordings that Jimmy Page possessed, instead limiting the comparison to an outline of the Taurus composition in the deposit copy lead sheet,” the lawyer Francis Malofiy wrote.

Other complaints pertaining to the original trial include limiting plaintiff’s trial time to 10 hours and an accusation the court seriously erred when defining originality. Spirit’s lawyers seek a reversal of the original verdict and a retrial.

After the initial verdict, Page wrote on Facebook: “A few weeks have passed since the judgement of the Stairway To Heaven case in Los Angeles, with the jury reaching a unanimous decision in a remarkably short time. Throughout the lengthy journey to that verdict, and even more recently, I have received and been aware of the overwhelming wave of support, encouragement and congratulations that have been deeply moving. I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank all those who contributed such a positive energy to me.”

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