The jury trial examining similarities between Zep's track and Spirit's 'Taurus' begins on May 10th - but the rockers have apparently been offered an out-of-court settlement.
As the jury trial concerning plagiarism over Led Zeppelin’s totemic rock song ‘Stairway To Heaven’ approaches, the lawyers suing the legendary rock group have apparently told them they can settle the case for $1 plus a writing credit for their client.
The trial is set for May 10th, and will examine the similarities between Zep’s eight-minute monster ‘Stairway To Heaven’ from 1971, perhaps the most famous rock song of all time, and Spirit’s 1968 song ‘Taurus’, and a judge has this week given rulings about what evidence can and cannot be heard by the jury.
On Monday (April 25th), US District Judge Gary Klausner ruled that any previous testimony that the group have been “serial plagiarists” in their career was deemed inadmissible, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This refers to the 1985 out-of-court settlement made by the band towards bluesman Willie Dixon, who had sued them over their song ‘Whole Lotta Love’.
Furthermore, the band members’ individual drug and alcohol consumption also cannot be submitted as evidence to defend against the claim that Led Zeppelin had never heard Spirit’s song, even though they had been touring mates in the late sixties.
Lastly, Judge Klausner rejected the experts Spirit wanted to rely on in court, because “these musicologists prepared their reports and opinions by relying upon sound recordings that embodied unprotected performance elements.”
However, according to another report by Bloomberg News, Zeppelin have apparently been offered a way out of the court case, with a $1 settlement and a writing credit for Spirit member Randy California, which would entitle his trustees to future profits from ‘Stairway To Heaven’. “It’s always been about credit where credit is due,” the plaintiff’s attorney Francis Malofiy is quoted as saying.
The controversy seems to centre on the introductions to the two songs, which remain admittedly very similar for the opening chords before becoming completely different tracks. However, Judge Klausner ruled that those chords were so similar as to warrant a jury trial.
“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 ruled. “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.”
Zep’s guitarist Jimmy Page has previously dismissed claims that the group had plagiarised the song as “ridiculous”. The trial will determine whether he and singer Robert Plant are liable for copyright infringement.