Led Zeppelin beats stealing claims: Other lawsuits over songs

Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant (left) and guitarist Jimmy Page pose for photographs as they arrive for the UK premiere of Celebration Day, on Oct 12, 2012.
Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant (left) and guitarist Jimmy Page pose for photographs as they arrive for the UK premiere of Celebration Day, on Oct 12, 2012.PHOTO: REUTERS

Los Angeles (Bloomberg, Reuters) - Led Zeppelin will not have to share royalties from one of rock's masterpieces after a jury found guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant did not steal the opening riff of Stairway To Heaven from an obscure 1968 instrumental.

A jury of four men and four women unanimously rejected the claim that Stairway To Heaven incorporated unique and original elements of Spirit's Taurus, even while the panel agreed evidence showed that Page and Plant would have been familiar with the Southern California group's song.

Led Zeppelin's win comes amid an uptick in lawsuits over allegedly stolen songs. 1. Just last year, a jury in the same courthouse surprised the industry by awarding US$7.4 million (later reduced to about US$5.3 million) for the infringement of Marvin Gaye's 1977 Got To Give It Up by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke with their 2013 hit Blurred Lines. 2. In May, Gabor Presser, a prominent Hungarian rock singer and composer, sued Kanye West for sampling one of his best-known compositions without permission for the 2013 song New Slaves.

He said that one-third of New Slaves, which appeared on the No. 1 album Yeezus, is an unauthorized copy of Gyongyhaju Lany, a 1969 song which roughly translates in English as Pearls In Her Hair. He is seeking at least US$2.5 million in damages for copyright infringement. 3. In a complaint made public in May, Justin Bieber and the co-writers of his 2015 hit Sorry are being sued for allegedly stealing a vocal riff from Casey Dienel, who said she used it on her own song, Ring The Bell, a year earlier.

Dienel, an indie artist who performs under the name White Hinterland, accused Bieber of infringing her copyright by using a "virtually identical" riff without permission.

Among the other defendants are producer Skrillex and Vivendi's Universal Music Group. 4. In June, two California-based musicians sued British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran for US$20 million over his hit song Photograph, which they claim bears a similar structure to one of their songs.

Martin Harrington, a songwriter and producer, and Thomas Leonard, a songwriter signed to Harrington's company HaloSongs, allege Sheeran's ballad Photograph, released as a single in 2015, has the same musical composition as their song Amazing, which they say they wrote in 2009.

Other named defendants include Snow Patrol's Johnny McDaid, credited as a co-writer of Photograph.

The attorney for Gaye's heirs, Richard Busch, is representing Harrington and Leonard.