Led Zepplin’s iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” was finally cleared of copyright infringement in historic proceedings in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On September 23, 2019 the Michael Skidmore v. Warner/Chapell Music, Inc. and Led Zeppelin case was decided. This case involved a claim from Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust. Skidmore alleged Led Zeppelin copied the opening notes of Spirit’s song, “Taurus” in their epic “Stairway to Heaven”. This case was originally decided in Led Zeppelin’s favor; an appeal and remand was decided in Led Zeppelin’s favor as well, challenging some long-standing precedents. In this last court ruling, the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals overturned their own inverse ratio rule. The inverse ratio rule states that infringement can be proven with “…a lower standard of proof of substantial similarity when a high degree of access is shown”.
A copy of the court decision can be found on the US Courts website at https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/03/09/16-56057.pdf