Court case argues that former tourmate should be given a writing credit on the song
A judge has ruled what evidence will and will not be heard by the jury in Led Zeppelin‘s upcoming trial that is set to determine whether they plagiarised the opening of their 1971 classic track ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Lawyers suing the band also say their client is willing to settle for the sum of $1, plus a writing credit.
The trial is scheduled for May 10 and will look at the similarities between the band’s hit and Spirit’s 1968 song ‘Taurus’.
On Monday (April 25), US District Judge Gary Klausner ruled that any testimony on how Led Zeppelin were “serial plagiarists” had been banned. The band have been accused of plagiarising other works several times in the past. In 1985, Willie Dixon sued the band over their song ‘Whole Lotta Love’, resulting in an out-of-court settlement and Dixon later being credited as a co-writer.
The Hollywood Reporter also reports that the band members’ alcohol and drug use cannot be used as evidence to cast doubts on denials that the band had never heard Spirit’s ‘Taurus’ before composing ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
The judge has also rejected all of the plaintiff’s experts because “these musicologists prepared their reports and opinions by relying upon sound recordings that embodied unprotected performance elements”, according to the reports. Klausner has given the plaintiff five days to submit new expert reports that are “purged” of unprotected performance elements.
According to Bloomberg News, lawyers for the plaintiff are seeking a $1 settlement plus a writing credit for Spirit member Randy California, which would entail his trustees to future profits from the track. “It’s always been about credit where credit is due,” said attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy.
Hear both tracks below.
The case was originally brought against the band by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy California (real name Randy Wolfe), who played guitar in Spirit. Skidmore argues that Wolfe should be given a writing credit on the track ‘Stairway To Heaven’ as it resembles his band’s 1968 song ‘Taurus’. The two bands toured together in 1968 and 1969.
Klausner has said that the two tracks are “substantially” similar enough to warrant a trial. The jury will determine whether Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page are liable for copyright infringement.
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,” the judge ruled. “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.”
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In their defence, the defendants claim that the song’s “chord progressions were so clichéd that they did not deserve copyright protection”, according to the reports.
Jimmy Page previously labelled claims that Led Zeppelin plagiarised the song as “ridiculous”.