When thinking about Led Zeppelin, the first thing that comes to mind is their most famous song and every Guitar Center employees’ least favorite song “Stairway to Heaven.” But back in 2014, a lesser-known band called Spirit claimed that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page stole the opening riff from their song “Taurus” and filed a lawsuit against Zeppelin for copyright infringement. After some time of preliminary hearings, it appears that the case may stick as a judge determined that a jury could find “substantial” similarities between both songs and now the case will actually go to trial.
During the last hearing this past Friday, a U.S. district judge in Los Angeles ruled that the plaintiff had made a strong enough case in its claim of copyright infringement to send the matter to a jury. Judge Gary Klausner dictated on his judgement:
“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, for example, the descending bass line in both ‘Taurus’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ appears at the beginning of both songs, arguably the most recognizable and important segments.”
“ 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.”
The trial is scheduled to take place on May 10th. and, if the ruling goes in favor of Spirit’s representative Michael Skidmore, who’s frontman Randy Wolfe’s trustee, Zeppelin would be forced to pay the damages claimed. But based on the 1967 contract that Wolfe signed, only 50% of the claim will be going directly to Skidmore.
Zeppelin hasn’t responded to the new turn on this case but in a 2014 interview with France’s Liberation newspaper, Page called the claims “ridiculous.” Take a listen to a comparison between both tracks on the video below.
[H/T Karina P.]