Led Zeppelin’s lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page are heading to court to dispute whether they stole the opening chords for their world-famous track ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
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The decision to take the matter further was passed on Friday when the US district judge Gary Klausner said that the song and the instrumental track ‘Taurus’ by the band Spirit were similar enough to let a jury decide whether the two musicians should be charged with copyright infringement.
The case started back in 2014 by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe aka Randy California who was the guitarist and songwriter for ‘Taurus’. He reckons that Plant and Page stole the intro from their song and used it for ‘Stairway to Heaven’, which was released three years after Spirit’s track.
The defendant said that Wolfe was a songwriter for hire and that the chord progressions were so clichÃ©d that they did not warrant a copyright protection. However, the judge said that there was “substantial” similarities to the first two minutes of each song, which he said was:
Arguably the most recognisable and important segments of the song.
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.
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.
Sounds like Led Zeppelin has pulled a bit of a cheeky move here. Listen to the two songs and you’ll get what they’re talking about:
You can’t deny that they seem to have ripped the intro there. I prefer the Led Zeppelin one, but still, not cool to be taking other people’s music from them right? Still, we’ll have to wait and see if the jury agrees, as the court case doesn’t start until 10th May.
I think they’ve got a bit of a stronger case than that guy who tried to sue Taylor Swift for $42 million for ripping his lyrics.