After kicking around for a solid 45 years, Led Zeppelin’s definitive Stairway To Heaven is sounding a little to similar to a slightly older song. And now it’s been taken to court.
In a decision made on Friday, U.S District Judge Gary Klausner decided that the opening chords to Stairway and the 1967 instrumental song Taurus by Spirit were a little too similar. Now, a jury will decide whether or not plagiarism had been committed by Led Zeppelin songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Straits Times reports.
The trail is scheduled for May 10, and will see both Page and Plant tried for Copyright Infringement.
The lawsuit was brought forward by Michael Skidmore, who is a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe, AKA Randy California, the guitarist and songwriter from Spirit.
Skidmore noted that the idea for Stairway To Heaven may have come to Page after he saw Spirit perform, as the bands toured together in 1968 and 1969.
Judge Klausner noted that the jury could find “substantial” similarity between the opening two minutes of both songs, which were “arguably the most important and recognisable segments of the songs.”
“While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure…what remains is a subjective assessment of the “concept and feel’ of two works … a task no more suitable for a judge than for a jury” wrote Klausner.
Klausner also noted that a trustee can only get 50% worth of the damages awarded, as outlined in a contract signed by Wolfe in 1967.
“This case, from our perspective, has always been about giving credit where credit was due, and now we get to right that wrong” stated Francis Malofiy, lawyer for Skidmore.
Given the relentless legal practises of Zeppelin, this seems to be a case that could turn into one of the uglier shit-fights the industry has seen this year.
However, despite the controversy surrounding the song, it is highly unlikely that a successful appeal could tarnish the legacy of one of the most influential bands of all time.
Get the popcorn.
Image: All Music