A Lawsuit Over The Song ‘Stairway To Heaven’ Is Re-Opened

Joe: 106.7 WIZN. It’s The Cars “Let’s Go.” Heard Bon Jovi before that. I’m Joe Vega here with you on your Wednesday rock and ride home. Earlier, I was talking about the Led Zeppelin lawsuit with Randy California from the band Spirit, which has been re-opened. And I wanted to get a legal perspective on this. So I called Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. You can call them at 1-800-LAW-1010 or go online to 1800law1010.com. Paul, how are you doing?

Attorney Harding: Hey, doing well. How are you?

Joe: Good to talk to you again. I wanted to discuss this Led Zeppelin lawsuit with you. Are you familiar with this case?

Attorney Harding: You know, I certainly am. I’ve been following it the last two years.

Joe: Right. And you’re a big Led Zeppelin fan, right? You listened to them growing up?

Attorney Harding: I did, you know, kind of like think I know every word to “Stairway to Heaven” but then of course when I look at the actual words, I’m making some up along the way.

Joe: Right. Of course.

Attorney Harding: But, yes, I would call myself a fan.

Joe: Right. Awesome. So, yeah, they, of course, have been accused over the years of stealing a lot of their songs, not just “Stairway to Heaven,” but a lot of other tunes. But, of course, this is the most famous one that we’re talking about here. Former Spirit guitarist Randy California sued them a couple of years ago claiming that they lifted the beginning of “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s 1968 instrumental “Taurus.” And I was just curious if you could talk about what it would take for them to win this?

Attorney Harding: Yeah, you know, let me just real quickly here, so if you go ahead and you write a book or a poem or in this case, a song, as soon as you put pen to paper and you take that and you’re done with it, it’s actually deemed copyrighted. It actually has protection. If someone walks into your dorm at college and takes it and goes out and performs it and makes money off it, you do have a claim. So you don’t have to go through a lot of technical stuff to actually get copyright protection.

Joe: Interesting.

Attorney Harding: But here, yeah, you know it’s different than people think. It isn’t just like a patent. You know, that’s different. When you go to patent something, like, that you may invent, that has different rules.

Joe: Right.

Attorney Harding: But here, what we’ve got…we’ve got a song that sounds awful similar, super similar. I was kind of surprised in 2016 I think it was when the judge kind of threw the case out and says, “No, we don’t see anything here.” But now what happened is another panel of judges got together and said, “No, we think there’s enough here. We think that there was an improper jury instruction that was given in the trial in 2016, so we’re gonna remand it back to see if we’re gonna do this trial again.”

Joe: Right. What could that possibly be? I know they didn’t give the instructions on there, what the judge actually said, but what could be considered erroneous jury instructions?

Attorney Harding: Might have set the bar too high. Might have said, “Hey, you know, does this sound exactly like it? Is it indistinguishable? Can you not tell the difference between what Spirit did in the song “Taurus” to “Stairway to Heaven?” And, you know, that would be a bar far too high.

Joe: Gotcha.

Attorney Harding: You know, how close was it? And that’s probably what this is about. They’re wondering, you know, did the jury…were they handcuffed to make a logical decision by the judges giving the instruction?

Joe: Gotcha. All right. Thank you, Paul. Thanks for coming on the program.

Attorney Harding: Anytime. You’re welcome, Joe.

Joe: Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Again, you can call them at 1-800-LAW-1010 or go online to 1800law1010.com. Mel Allen takes over from here. He’s got music from Joe Walsh and ZZ Top coming up.