Led Zeppelin could squash their entire copyright infringement lawsuit over their 1971 classic “Stairway To Heaven” for one dollar — but there’s a catch. As it stands now, Zeppelin will have to defend themselves starting May 10th in a U.S. Federal court in a jury trial after being sued by Michael Skidmore, the trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, on behalf of the late Spirit guitarist who wrote “Taurus” and performed under the name Randy California. The trust is hoping to not only win a monetary judgment, but also secure a writing credit for California on “Stairway To Heaven.”
Bloomberg.com posted that for a one dollar payment, the song’s writers — Jimmy Page and Robert Plant — could bypass a high profile and possibly very damaging lawsuit, reporting, “Robert Plant and Jimmy Page would have to give dead rocker Randy California a writing credit on. . . ‘Stairway To Heaven.’ And that’s probably worth a lot more than a buck. Such an agreement by Page and Plant, the band’s guitarist and singer, respectively, would head off a much anticipated copyright infringement trial scheduled for May 10th in Los Angeles federal court.”
- Robert Plant and Jimmy Page will not appear at the upcoming trial, but have already sat for individual depositions in their defense.
- The performance and publishing worth of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” is estimated to be over $560 million.
- Jimmy Page explained that it was soon evident that Led Zeppelin couldn’t be lumped in with other UK bands being dubbed heavy metal at the time: [“I think we managed to erase that sort of tag and cliche that got put on us around about the fourth album, to anybody that was still doubtful about us and wondering really where we were at and everything. When ‘Stairway To Heaven’ came out, they realized that we were a group that was intent on change and there was a far more dramatic quality within our particular brand of music, than say, the — so to speak — heavy metal groups. Y’know, there was more. . . More going on within it in the framework.”] SOUNDCUE (:29 OC: . . . in the framework)
Vintage Vinyl News posted some of the restrictions for the upcoming lawsuit that may act in Plant and Page’s favor:
- The only version of “Taurus” that will be allowed to be played during the trial will be those that were filed with the copyright office in 1967. Other versions that the plaintiff’s lawyers wanted to present that, presumably, showed the similarities between guitar passages even better, are now off limits.
- The expert’s written opinions that were to be submitted at trial that were based on the disallowed recordings have been rejected. The plaintiff’s lawyers have five days to submit new reports based only on the allowed recordings.
- All testimony on Led Zeppelin’s history of plagiarism is barred. The only evidence that will be allowed will be two quotes made by Jimmy Page, himself, in magazine articles on how he wrote music.
- There will be no testimony on the drinking or drug habits of the members of Led Zeppelin.
- There will be no testimony on the wealth of the members of the group.
- Back in February, Jimmy Page denied that he had ever heard Spirit’s “Taurus” prior to writing the signature-opening riff to “Stairway To Heaven.” Page fought back in his official statement to the court, with TheWrap.com, posting selections from his testimony, including, “Prior to hearing a recording of ‘Taurus’ in 2014 in connection with this matter, I have never heard ‘Taurus’ or even heard of it. I am very good at remembering music and am absolutely certain that I never heard ‘Taurus’ until 2014.”
- Despite the fact that Spirit and Zeppelin shared the bill with each other on several occasions, Page went on to say: “I do not recall ever seeing Spirit perform live. Again, though, I am absolutely certain I never heard them, or anyone else, perform ‘Taurus.'”
- Regarding the similarities in the two songs, Page explained it to be the product of “basic skills leaned by any student of the guitar . . . I consider descending chromatic lines and arpeggiated chords basic skills learned by any student of the guitar. Certainly, as a guitarist, I was aware of descending chromatic lines and arpeggios long before 1968.”
- Page shed light on the creation of “Stairway To Heaven,” revealing, “the intention to create a long work, with multiple different parts, that would unfold with increasing complexity and speed culminating in a guitar solo that was preceded by a distinct fanfare, followed by the last verse concluding a climax to the song.”
- The guitarist went on to admit that he in fact realized that he had a copy of Spirit’s 1968 self-titled debut album featuring “Taurus” in his collection but that he did “not know how or when it got there,” suggesting, it “may well have been left by a guest. . . But, again, I know I did not hear ‘Taurus’ until 2014.”
CHECK IT OUT: A comparison between “Stairway To Heaven” and “Taurus”: