A while back, we here at Abnormal Use wrote about a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Led Zeppelin. The suit, filed by the estate of Randy California of the band Spirit, alleges that Led Zeppelin lifted the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” from the Spirit’s song “Taurus.” Now, some two years later, that case is on the eve of trial. Jury selection is set to begin this very morning. Trial is is expected to last less than a week, with each side allotted 10 hours to present testimony. In case you are wondering, the great Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are expected to be in attendance at trial.
We will be curious to see how this one plays out at trial. If the plaintiff prevails, it would mean that a jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that one of history’s most prolific songs was partially plagiarized from Spirit of all bands. While we appreciate the classic California band and, in particular the song, “I Got a Line on You,” it is hard for our minds to grapple with notion that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t conceive the majestic opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven.” We get that many bands (including Led Zeppelin) are no strangers to “musical inspiration” in creating their own hits, but it still pains us to think that our favorite songs are anything less than original. Of course, we are also the same folks who questioned whether Tyson intentionally bit off Holyfield’s ear or whether Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. So take it for what it is worth.
The plaintiff alleges that Jimmy Page got his musical inspiration for “Stairway” when Led Zeppelin was the undercard for Spirit during a 1968 U.S. Tour and heard the band play “Taurus.” According to Page, the band apparently was paying that much attention. In a 6-page declaration filed with the court, Page stated the he never heard nor was he aware of “Taurus” until a couple of years ago. We will wait and see which way the jury wants to go.