Led Zeppelin to face trial over 'Stairway to Heaven' copyright infringement
Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page must face a copyright infringement trial to have a jury determine if the band’s classic 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven” takes its opening chords from a song by the band Spirit, a U.S. court has ruled. The trial is scheduled for May 10.
The infringement suit was filed in 2014 by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who claims the track infringes on Spirit’s “Taurus,” which was recorded for the band’s 1967 album and that he should be given credit for the track. Plant and Page have long told the story that they wrote the track in a cottage in Wales.
In the court documents, obtained by EW, Spirit claims the band and Led Zeppelin played together on the same bill three times between 1968 and 1970, before “Stairway to Heaven” was written, and that Led Zeppelin used the opening chords on “Taurus” after hearing it performed.
U.S. district judge Gary Klausner asserts that there are enough “similarities” to take the case to trial in front of a jury. “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,” he rules. “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 rep for Led Zeppelin declined to comment on the case.
Hear the two songs below.