LED Zeppelin rock legends Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are to face trial over whether they stole the opening chords for their 1971 classic “Stairway to Heaven.”
The lead singer as well as the guitarist have been ordered by US District Judge Gary Klausner to appear before a jury after being sued.
The Los Angeles justice said “Stairway” and the 1967 instrumental “Taurus” by the band Spirit were similar enough for a trial to decide whether Plant and Page were guilty for copyright infringement.
Judge Klausner said: “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 wrote.
“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.â€
The claim was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe, who was Spirit’s guitarist and composer of Taurus.
He claims the two bands toured together in 1968 and 1969 and this may have been when Page was inspired to write Stairway To Heaven but never gave Wolfe the credit.
Lawyers for the two rockers said at the time he was songwriter-for-hire who had no copyright claim, and that the chord progressions were too well-known for such protection.
Judge Klausner dismissed claims against Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Warner Music Group Corp at a hearing on Friday.
He also said Skidmore could only receive 50 percent of any damages awarded, citing a 1967 contract that Wolfe signed.
“This case, from our perspective, has always been about giving credit where credit was due, and now we get to right that wrong,” Francis Malofiy, a lawyer for the claimant said.
According to the complaint, before his death in 1997 Wolfe had complained about the similarities of the songs.
He drowned in the Pacific Ocean while attempting to rescue his son.
Stairway to Heaven is one of the most successful rock songs of all time earning Led Zeppelin hundreds of millions of pounds .
It is not the first time the rockers have been sued.
The band has already been forced to alter the credits and pay portions of their royalties for songs such as Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and Whole Lotta Love.
Judge Klausner set May 10 for trial. – Daily Mirror