A copyright lawsuit that claims that the band Led Zeppelin plagiarized the song “Stairway to Heaven” from the band Spirit is changing venues from Philadelphia to California.
Facts of the Case
According to the lawsuit, Spirit's bassist Mark Andes filed the lawsuit on behalf of the estate of the band's guitarist, Randy California, who passed away in 1997. The lawsuit claims that the introduction of the Led Zeppelin song, "Stairway to Heaven," bears a striking resemblance to their band's song entitled "Taurus," which was featured on Spirit's self-titled debut album. Led Zeppelin's first concert in America was as Spirit's opening act in 1968, the year when "Taurus" was released. Furthermore, the two bands appeared together at several music festivals in 1969. Mr. Andres is seeking an injunction to block the re-release of Led Zeppelin's fourth album, where the song "Stairway to Heaven" appears. He is asking that his former bandmate get a co-writing credit on the song and restitution for the millions of dollars that the song has made since it was first released.
Issues of Contention
The main point of contention in this case for months has been the location of the trial. Led Zeppelin's attorneys argued that the case should not be heard in Philadelphia because "The individual defendants are British citizens residing in England, own no property in Pennsylvania and have no contacts with Pennsylvania, let alone ties sufficient to render them essentially at home here." Their side eventually won the argument, which now sends the case to federal court in California. However, the fight over venue comes after Led Zeppelin's attorneys attempted to get the entire case thrown out on a motion for summary judgment. This argument failed, and now the attorneys for the band claim that once in California they will challenge the creation of Randy California's trust.
Prior Claims of Plagiarism
This is not the first time that Led Zeppelin has faced accusations of plagiarism for their music. The band has been sued for copyright infringement for the songs "Whole Lotta Love," "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," "The Lemon Song," and "Dazed and Confused." Every time, the band was forced to give another artist a co-writing credit for the song and pay restitution for the infringement. If Spirit is successful in their claims, the estate of Randy California would be entitled to the share of profits from the song that has come in the three year statute of limitations period since the initiation of the lawsuit. This could still be a considerable amount, considering that "Stairway to Heaven" has made at least $562 million over the years.
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