Led Zeppelin face copyright claim for Stairway to Heaven 

June 2014

Music publishing


Iconic rock band Led Zeppelin is being sued by a musician claiming Stairway to Heaven rips off the opening riff of his band’s song. Mark Andes, the founding bassist of Spirit, is filing a lawsuit claiming the introduction to Zeppelin’s 1971 anthemic song is very similar to Spirit’s song, Taurus. Andes is seeking an injunction to block the impending re-release of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, on which Stairway appears, so that guitarist Randy California, who wrote Taurus, gets a co-writing credit on the song. It is understood California’s estate is also a party to the claim,  Before California died in 1997, he told a reporter: “I’d say it was a rip off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you’, never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”

In order to prove copyright, Andes has to prove that the songs are virtually identical and that Led Zeppelin had access to the source material. Led Zeppelin’s first concert in America was as Spirit’s opening act in 1968, the year in which Taurus was released. The two bands also appeared at several festivals together in 1969. Led Zeppelin’s has been sued numerous times by artists complaining the band had stolen their work. Previous lawsuits have forced them to give co-writing credit on Whole Lotta Love, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, The Lemon Song and Dazed and Confused, leading punters to dub the group “the greatest cover band in the world”

Guitarist Jimmy Page has dismissed the claim as “ridiculous” but added nothing more. Stairway To Heaven is said to be one of the most covered rock songs and its worth is estimated to be more than $560 million.

http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/music/led-zeppelin-getting-sued-over-stairway-to-heaven-copyright/story-e6frfn09-1226922150089   and, after such a long delay in bringing the action,  an interesting analysis of the application of the doctrine of laches on the claim: Although Spirit’s case hinges on numerous factors, including whether Stairway is considered a derivative work of Taurus, a particularly interesting issue arising out this dispute is whether a laches defence will bar Spirit’s legal and equitable claims. More on this from Jeremy over on the IPKat here http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/breaking-news-scotus-casts-shadow-on.html

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