California Intellectual Property Blog


#LedZeppelin #Copyright Case Over “#StairwaytoHeaven” Heads to Trial

stairwaySan Diego – A copyright lawsuit filed by a band called Spirit against Led Zeppelin over its iconic song Stairway to Heaven will now go to trial. The trial’s focus is whether the introduction from Stairway to Heaven copied the chord sequence of Spirit’s song called “Taurus.”

The surviving members of Spirit claim they performed at festivals with Led Zeppelin, which provided the band opportunity to hear, and then later borrow from, their song “Taurus.” The Spirit band members state they shared multiple conversations with the Led Zeppelin band members at these festivals, and that these times together would have been enough for Led Zeppelin to hear the chord sequence.

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin, in contrast, claim they never toured with Spirit or heard any of their music and in no way took their chord sequence.

These conflicting accounts were provided as testimony when the case went before U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California. Michael Skidmore brought forth the case on behalf of Spirit member Randy Wolfe, who died in 1997. The case is brought against Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (band member John Paul Jones was dismissed from the case). The lawsuit over Stairway to Heaven was able to overcome statute-of-limitations challenges because the song was remastered and re-released in 2014.

In addition to testimony over whether the members of Led Zeppelin had the opportunity to hear the song Taurus while performing at music festivals, testimony was used from experts who reviewed the songs.

An expert brought on behalf of Spirit claimed, “The presence of acoustic guitar, strings, recorder/flute sounds, and harpsichord as well as the noticeable absence of bass and drums (and other instruments characteristic of rock and roll) lend both songs a decidedly ‘classical’ style, particularly evoking a Renaissance atmosphere.”

In response, an expert brought on behalf of Led Zeppelin claimed that analysis “does not mention or reflect, for example, performance techniques, instrumentation and orchestration, or tempo (i.e., performance speed).”

After hearing the testimony of the parties involved and their experts, Klausner ruled that the copyright case brought by Spirit contained enough evidence of copyright infringement to move forward to a trial which is set to begin on May 10, 2016.


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