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Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin Loses Round One to Spirit’s Taurus in Plagiarism Case; Does Anyone Remember Laughter?

By Tony Sokol | October 18, 2014 12:29 PM EDT


"Stairway to Heaven," the perennial rock classic by Led Zeppelin, is very similar to the Spirit song "Taurus," according to a Pennsylvania court. A judge is trying to decide whether Led Zeppelin's biggest hit, "Stairway to Heaven," was lifted from a song the band may have heard while on tour with the band Spirit.

Taurus, the song in question was written by Randy Craig Wolfe, founding member of the band Spirit.

In June, the family of Randy Craig Wolfe sued Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and their music companies claiming that Jimmy Page's story about writing Stairway to Heaven after woodshedding in a remote cottage in Wales in 1970 is false. According to Led Zeppelin mythology, Jimmy Page wrote the instantly recognizable intro for "Stairway To Heaven" by candlelight in 1970. Lawyers for Spirit are suing Led Zeppelin for plagiarism, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Taurus was written and performed by Spirit, who toured with Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s. Led Zeppelin and Spirit shared the bill at four concerts between 1968 and 1969. Businessweek claims Spirit played "Taurus" during the shows. According to reports, Led Zeppelin played a medley that included the Spirit song "Fresh-Garbage" on their first U.S. tour. Spirit had a hit with "I Got a Line on You."

A memorandum to dismiss the case said "The individual defendants are British citizens residing in England, own no property in Pennsylvania and have no contacts with Pennsylvania, let alone ties sufficient to render them essentially at home here."

The plaintiffs responded by amending the claim to emphasize why a Pennsylvania judge should oversee the case: "Defendants are subject to specific jurisdiction in this district because they make millions of dollars from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by directly targeting this district for the exploitation of 'Stairway to Heaven' through CD sales, digital downloading, radio and television play, advertising, marketing, concert performances, other performances, licensing, and otherwise targeting resident individuals and businesses to profit off the exploitation of 'Stairway to Heaven.'"

U.S. District Court Judge Juan Sánchez denied the motion to dismiss or transfer without prejudice. Led Zeppelin can bring it up again.

Led Zeppelin is being sued for plagiarism over their signature song "Stairway to Heaven." A Pennsylvania federal judge has ordered sanctions against the attorney preparing to sue Led Zeppelin for "Stairway to Heaven."

The attorneys claim Led Zeppelin's 1971 rock classic Stairway to Heaven, was lifted from Spirit's 1968 instrumental track "Taurus." The song was written by Spirit guitarist Randy California (born Randy Wolfe) and the band's former bassist Mark Andes. Stairway to Heaven is one of the most covered rock songs. It is estimated to be worth more than $560 million.

Earlier this year, Judge Paul Diamond sanctioned Francis Alexander Malofiy, a lawyer representing a trust for the late writer Randy California, claiming that the lawyer behaved "in a flagrantly unprofessional and offensive manner" over the course of a different case.

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Malofiy recently brought a lawsuit against Usher and 19 other defendants for copyright infringement.

Malofy represented Dan Marino, who claimed he wrote the basic melody, chord progressions and tempo for the Usher song "Bad Girl." Marino claimed he wrote the song with with his former songwriting partners William Guice and Dante Barton, They are also named in the suit.

Usher and the dependents were found not to have acted improperly in the copyright infringement lawsuit.

This isn't the first time Led Zeppelin has been hit with plagiarism charges. The band had to change the songwriting credits on "Whole Lotta Love," "The Lemon Song" and "Dazed and Confused" after similar legal action was taken.

Speaking of an earlier plagiarism charge, Jimmy Page recently told The New York Times that Led Zeppeling credited Willie Dixon for "Whole Lotta Love" because "Within the lyrics of it, there's [Dixons's] "You Need Love," and there are similarities within the lyrics. Now I'm not pointing a finger at anybody, but I'm just saying that's what happened, and Willie Dixon got credit. Fair enough."

Reissues of "Led Zeppelin," "Led Zeppelin II" and "Led Zeppelin III" hit stores on June 3rd.  

Tagged :  world news, Led Zeppelin;, led zeppelin stairway to heaven, led zeppelin plagiarism


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