A Los Angeles federal judge has delayed trial of a copyright-infringement lawsuit involving Led Zeppelin’s iconic rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven” until next month.
The lawsuit alleges that the guitar arpeggio opening of “Stairway,” released 45 years ago, was lifted from the 1968 instrumental “Taurus” by the long-defunct Los Angeles band Spirit.
The case was scheduled to go to trial May 10, but U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner has delayed the start date until June 14, according to a ruling obtained Tuesday.
The suit was lodged on behalf of Michael Skidmore, administrator of the trust of Spirit’s late guitarist-songwriter Randy Craig Wolfe, known as Randy California. Wolfe drowned in 1997 off the coast of Hawaii. Defendants include Led Zeppelin band members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and various music companies.
Klausner previously ruled that the jury trial would last less than a week and attorneys would have no more than 10 hours per side to present evidence.
Led Zeppelin’s lawyers said in court papers that Page and Plant would probably not attend the trial. Video depositions, filmed in the United Kingdom, will instead be shown to the jury.
Plaintiff’s attorneys have suggested that they would settle if the band pays Skidmore $1 — and gives Randy California a songwriting credit on “Stairway To Heaven,” among the most ubiquitous of rock songs.
In February, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, along with Warner Music Group Corp., asked Klausner to throw out the suit, but the judge concluded that trial was required.
Allowing the case to go forward, Klausner determined that there was enough evidence for a jury to weigh whether there was “substantial similarity” in the songs.
The estate’s attorney, Francis Malofiy, previously told City News Service:”Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit when they first came over here. There’s no doubt Jimmy Page appreciated Spirit on an emotional and musical level. And, of course, Led Zeppelin has a unique history of lifting their songs from other sources.”
In the 1970s, the British rock band made settlement agreements and granted writing co-credits to other artists for several songs originally credited to Page, including “Whole Lotta Love,” “The Lemon Song” and “Dazed and Confused.”
“Attribution is the most important thing,” Malofiy said. “What we want is for credit to be given where it’s due. I’m a fan of Led Zeppelin, but in this situation, we want credit for Randy.”
In the liner notes to a 1996 reissue of Spirit’s first album, Wolfe stated that “people always ask me why ‘Stairway to Heaven’ sounds exactly like ‘Taurus,’ which was released two years earlier. … They opened up for us on their first American tour.”
In a six-page declaration filed with the court, Page said he didn’t hear, or had even heard of, the 2-minute, 37-second “Taurus” until two years ago.
“I am very good at remembering music and am absolutely certain that I never heard ‘Taurus’ until 2014,” the guitarist said, adding that he has no memory of seeing Spirit perform in concert.
— Wire reports