(Reuters) - Led Zeppelin's lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page must face a U.S. jury trial over whether they stole opening chords for their 1971 classic "Stairway to Heaven."
In a decision on Friday, U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles said "Stairway" and the 1967 instrumental "Taurus" by the band Spirit were similar enough to let a jury decide whether Plant and Page were liable for copyright infringement.
A trial is scheduled for May 10.
The lawsuit was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe, also known as Randy California, who was Spirit's guitarist and the composer of "Taurus." (Check out the :44 mark below.)
Skidmore said Page may have been inspired to write "Stairway" for Led Zeppelin after hearing Spirit perform "Taurus" while the bands toured together in 1968 and 1969, but that Wolfe never got credit.
The defendants said Wolfe was a songwriter-for-hire who had no copyright claim, and that the chord progressions were so clichéd that they did not deserve copyright protection.
But the judge said a jury could find "substantial" similarity between the first two minutes of "Stairway" and "Taurus," which he called "arguably the most recognizable and important segments" of the songs.
"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," Klausner 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."
Klausner dismissed claims against Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Warner Music Group Corp.
He also said the trustee can get only 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 Skidmore, said by phone.
A lawyer for the defendants did not immediately respond on Monday to requests for comment.
According to the complaint, Wolfe complained about the similarities of the songs in an interview shortly before he drowned in 1997 in the Pacific Ocean while attempting to rescue his son.
"Stairway to Heaven" is a track on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth studio album, often referred to as "Led Zeppelin IV."
The case is Skidmore v Led Zeppelin et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 15-03462.
After a Time and Stairway to Heaven
625 WordsJan 28th, 20183 Pages
First supporting point: “After A Time” establishes a deliberate dark, dismal tone, leading us to see that eventually the healing will begin. In Davis’s poem first
After a time, all losses are the same. One more thing lost is one thing less to lose;
And we go stripped at last the way we came. (First stanza)
Second supporting point: Davis uses figurative language to show the inevitability of death.
The sense of treachery—the want, the blame—
Goes in the end, whether or not we choose,
And we go stripped at last the way we came. (Fifth stanza)
Third supporting point: However, in the end, Davis shows us that no possessions and accomplishments will keep us from death or loss. That we will have no lifes simplier things and that these things brings joy far more than the material possessions can.
So we, who would go raging, will go tame When what we have can no longer use: After a time, all losses are the same; And we go stripped at last the way we came. (Sixth Stanza)
Most of the times we take it for granted that there is always plenty of time.
Fourth supporting point: Robert Plant’s “Stairway to Heaven” sees life as a mystical journey and a spiritual quest, but one can not buy happiness on his or her way to heaven. If there's a bustle in your…