Judge Sets May Trial for ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Claim

By Vernon Silver | February 9, 2016

The judge presiding over a lawsuit challenging the authenticity of Led Zeppelin’s signature song Stairway to Heaven rejected a bid to delay the case, setting the stage for a May trial — if it doesn’t get settled or dismissed before then.

A lawyer who contends that the British band stole portions of an obscure composition by the band Spirit for use in the ballad had asked the Los Angeles court to grant extra time, in part to gather more information about Stairway’s earnings. By one estimate, the 1971 song has made more than half a billion dollars.

Surviving Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant objected to a proposed postponement to July, which would have conflicted with Plant’s European summer tour.

The case stems from what, to some ears, is a similarity between Stairway and Taurus, an instrumental piece released on Spirit’s debut album in 1968. The musicians deny the infringement allegations and say Plant and Page alone wrote the song. Spirit guitarist Randy California, who composed Taurus, died in 1997. The trustee who handles his royalties sued in May 2014, claiming “falsification of rock ‘n’ roll history.”

The dispute may soon come to a head. The court has scheduled a settlement conference next month for the opposing parties to try to resolve the dispute. But Led Zeppelin also says they plan to file a motion for summary judgment to end the case.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner turned down the proposed extension with a red “DENIED” stamp across the top — calling to mind a backhanded homage to Stairway to Heaven from the film Wayne’s World.


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