The long-held accusations of plagiarism will finally arrive in court. Led Zeppelin founders Robert Plant and Jimmy Page must face trial in a copyright row over ‘Stairway to Heaven’, a US judge has ruled. In a case that mirrors the ‘Blurred Lines’ legal saga, a jury will be asked to determine if the 1971 guitar shop classic copies its opening notes from a song by the rock band Spirit. The copyright infringement action has been brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe.
Skidmore argues that Led Zep heard Spirit perform the instrumental ‘Taurus’ while the bands toured together in 1968 and 1969, and turned it into the famous descending fourchord progression of ‘Stairway’. “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,” ruled US district judge Gary Klausner.
“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.” A jury trial is scheduled for May 10th in Los Angeles. Under US law, Spirit could be entitled to royalties from recent sales of the track should they win the case – and given that ‘Stairway To Heaven’ has been valued at $560m, those earnings are likely to be fairly hefty.