Led Zeppelin stars to appear in court for Stairway to Heaven copyright trial

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to attend the trial in Los Angeles on Tuesday over claim the opening of the song was copied from a track by the band Spirit

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Jimmy Page and Robert Plant deny ever having listened to music by Spirit, whose song Taurus they are alleged to have used to write Stairway to Heaven. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant will appear in court on Tuesday to defend Stairway to Heaven, one of the most recognisable songs in rock history, from accusations of plagiarism.

Spirit, a psychedelic band from Los Angeles that enjoyed a niche following, claim the famous melancholic guitar that opens the song was lifted from its instrumental track Taurus.

Spirit’s guitarist Randy Wolfe – who went by the nickname Randy California – never took legal action over the song and died in 1997. But a lawsuit has been filed by his trustee, Michael Skidmore.

“Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment. It’s an exact … I’d say it was a rip-off,” California said in a magazine interview just before his death, quoted in the lawsuit.

“And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me.”

After two years of legal proceedings, a judge stopped short of agreeing that the song was copied but said there was enough of a case for a jury trial in Los Angeles.

Spirit’s representative “failed to proffer evidence of striking similarity, but he has successfully created a triable issue of fact as to access and substantial similarity,” US district court judge Gary Klausner said in a ruling in May.

The judge said the two sides had “vehemently contested” the question of whether Led Zeppelin had access to Taurus – written in 1967 – before recording Stairway to Heaven in London in December 1970 and January 1971.

Led Zeppelin were the opening act for Spirit when the hard British rockers – Plant, Page, John Paul Jones and the late John Bonham – made their US debut on 26 December 1968 in Denver.

But surviving members of Led Zeppelin submitted testimony to the court that they never had substantive interaction with Spirit or listened to the band’s music.

Once thought unlikely to appear, guitarist Page and singer Plant have already sat for filmed depositions and are expected to attend the opening of the trial in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Opening statements are expected to be heard after the jury is sworn in.

Led Zeppelin argued that the opening of Stairway to Heaven – a descending sequence mostly in A-minor – had been used in music for centuries and that the lawsuit ignored the rest of the song, which builds over eight minutes.

The judge disagreed, writing that the two songs had additional similarities including the bass line.

Skidmore has not specified the total in damages he is seeking but various stories in the music press have posited a possible settlement at anywhere between a symbolic $1 plus a writing credit to as much as $40m.

You can read the rest of this article at the Guardian

Now you decide, have a listen to both and tell us if you think Led Zeppelin have a case to answer?

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