Led Zeppelin - Face 'Stairway To Heaven' Copyright Infringement Case


Led Zeppelin has hired Helene Freeman, an entertainment lawyer who litigated a series of victories for Justin Timberlake's former boy band 'N Sync, to defend Led Zeppelin against a copyright infringement claim by a lawyer for the defunct 1960s group Spirit. The trust of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California filed a complaint on May 31st in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania arguing that the opening notes of Led Zeppelin iconic song "Stairway To Heaven" sound a lot like "Taurus", an instrumental piece by the late Spirit guitarist Randy California, released on his band's debut album in 1968. Lawyers for Led Zeppelin and the band's record company, Warner Music, have until September 22nd to respond to the suit.

Guitarist Jimmy Page has dismissed as "ridiculous" Spirit's copyright infringement claim and added that he had no further comment on the matter.

"Stairway To Heaven" appears on the album Led Zeppelin IV, which will be reissued as a deluxe edition on October 27th. Led Zeppelin's remastered fourth album will include additional companion audio of unreleased versions of every song on the studio album.


Spirit - Taurus


Source: businessweek.com
Band profile: Led Zeppelin
 
Posted: 12.09.2014 by Bad English


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Comments: 28   Visited by: 196 users
12.09.2014 - 12:17
Daniell
_爱情_
Seeing as LZ stole quite a lot from other artists and didn't acknowledge their theft at the time when they released their albums, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a legit claim.
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12.09.2014 - 12:32
Angel N.
Evil Butterfly
Whoah ! Musicians' fights ? come on !
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The Fangirl.
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12.09.2014 - 14:04
Hex_Omega
Gem Seeker
Quote:
''Taurus'' is an okay guitar instrumental that's cute for five minutes because it sounds like the opening to one ''Stairway to Heaven''.

- Progarchives.net October 2012.
I also hear similarity but does it mean that they stole it? Btw they want to suit them now, after 43 years?
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12.09.2014 - 14:16
M C Vice
Ex-polydactyl
It does sound a bit like Stairway To Heaven. It also sounds a bit like one of Black Sabbath's instrumentals, either Orchid or Fluff, can't remember which.
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"Another day, another Doug."
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" 'Tis a lie! Thy backside is whole and ungobbled, thou ungrateful whelp!"
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12.09.2014 - 14:42
Ace Frawley
The Spaceman
If that's the full song then there is a bit of similarity but Zeppelin turned into something a whole lot more than that instrumental.
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The sun shines over The Fool...
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12.09.2014 - 15:32
Slayer666
Written by Daniell on 12.09.2014 at 12:17

Seeing as LZ stole quite a lot from other artists and didn't acknowledge their theft at the time when they released their albums, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a legit claim.


I've come across mentions of LZ's alleged thieving ways on more than one relatively reliable source (with "Stairway to Heaven" being mentioned the most), so there's probably something to it.
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12.09.2014 - 16:11
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Rock band that once reached #22 on the US Top 200 over 40 years ago attempts to sue second-most successful band in US history citing "similar intro".

Cool story, bro.
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I have no memory of this place.
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12.09.2014 - 16:28
ScottyM
Written by Troy Killjoy on 12.09.2014 at 16:11

... second-most successful band in US history...


Led Zeppelin was from the UK...
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12.09.2014 - 16:30
bleak
Sad sad people.
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12.09.2014 - 16:35
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by ScottyM on 12.09.2014 at 16:28
Led Zeppelin was from the UK...

And they're the second-most successful band in the US. The Beatles, also from the UK, are number 1 on the list.
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I have no memory of this place.
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12.09.2014 - 16:47
Shmyt
If they cared they would have sued right away, and no one would buy that they never heard anyone play Stairway for 40 years, its a dirty trick because the new album is coming out and they're just hoping to get money thrown at them so they can't stall the release or generate any bad press for LZ. Sure its similar, but they had 40 years to say it but didn't until now.
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12.09.2014 - 17:29
Karlabos
Weirdo of MS
Sueing because the music is quite resemblant.. Bullshit
Some people even make remixes and covers without even warning and nothing ever happens =P
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2016 - 2017
2018 - 2019
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12.09.2014 - 18:35
ScottyM
Written by Troy Killjoy on 12.09.2014 at 16:35

Written by ScottyM on 12.09.2014 at 16:28
Led Zeppelin was from the UK...

And they're the second-most successful band in the US. The Beatles, also from the UK, are number 1 on the list.


Could you link me? Not questioning you, I just don't know where to find this sort of information and am curious to see who else is on the list.
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12.09.2014 - 19:13
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by ScottyM on 12.09.2014 at 18:35
Could you link me?

http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinum.php?content_selector=top-selling-artists
That list features both bands and individual artists, so Elvis and Garth Brooks push Zeppelin to number 4 overall.
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I have no memory of this place.
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12.09.2014 - 19:18
!J.O.O.E.!
Account deleted
Not seeing Blut aus Nord on that list. Clearly fake.
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12.09.2014 - 19:32
deadbraincells
Hmm, got to say that sounds almost exactly like Stairway to Heaven - if I imagine Robert Plant singing along (from 0:45 to about 0:54), he would get nearly the entire first verse out ("There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold and she's buying a stairway to") before there's a prominent difference in the very last notes (where "heaven" would be in the verse). I think there might be a difference in one of the first few chords too. I would say they may have a case here.

ooooooooo, it makes me wonder lol
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12.09.2014 - 19:38
Ganondox
Part of the intro also reminds me of the Downward Spiral motif, so....Anyway, there was one point where the melody did sound lot like Stairway to Heaven, so they might have a case, but they are very different pieces as a whole.

EDIT: Okay, further research makes me believe it's legit as the bands had some history together, and the one portion of the melody is identical.
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13.09.2014 - 00:25
imspazzen
If the composer himself didn't sue when he was alive then clearly he didn't see it as a big deal. To me "trust of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California" just reads as "family members trying to make money off of someone else's legacy".
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13.09.2014 - 01:36
afu
The picking pattern is similar, but the chords are a little different. The E7 to Am turnaround at the end of the Stairway riff isn't in the Spirit song. Even if it inspired Jimmy to write Stairway, it's different enough to not warrant a copyright claim. That'd be like the dude who wrote the Jaws theme suing all the metal bands who use a I-II-I riff......
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13.09.2014 - 01:48
Druss
Written by imspazzen on 13.09.2014 at 00:25

If the composer himself didn't sue when he was alive then clearly he didn't see it as a big deal. To me "trust of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California" just reads as "family members trying to make money off of someone else's legacy".

^this exactly. I'm absolutely sure the original composer very quickly realised the similarities, but we're only hearing these allegations now? What a surprise.

Also, derivation in music is a murky, murky area, regardless of genre.
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13.09.2014 - 13:01
afu
Written by Druss on 13.09.2014 at 01:48

Written by imspazzen on 13.09.2014 at 00:25

If the composer himself didn't sue when he was alive then clearly he didn't see it as a big deal. To me "trust of the late Spirit guitarist Randy California" just reads as "family members trying to make money off of someone else's legacy".

^this exactly. I'm absolutely sure the original composer very quickly realised the similarities, but we're only hearing these allegations now? What a surprise.

Also, derivation in music is a murky, murky area, regardless of genre.


There are twelve notes and up to 3 octaves on a standard tuned six string guitar. The common minor keys in metal are Am, Dm, and Em (or their equivalents with dropped tunings). It would be really difficult to write something that doesn't sound like something else in any given genre. With Pop and Country, C, F, and G major are used a lot, which use the same notes as the above minor keys, respectively, but the emphasis is changed to the given root note. Again, writing something completely original is hard. The structures for basic chord changes are rote and ingrained into most people by exposure to it. I once wrote a really awesome riff and realized two years later that I'd lifted it from a song in a video game. Shit happens. Whether it happens on purpose is another matter; or if the writer lifts it note for note and doesn't even try to put an artistic spin on it.

What it comes down to, in my opinion, is whether the "artist" can put their touch on it or breathe a different life into it. If they don't, they're a hack. Any of the things that Led Zeppelin outright stole in their first few years were at least re-purposed or changed in a fairly dramatic fashion. In this case, I think it's fair that Jimmy Page could have heard the song, but there's enough of a difference to eschew any claims that they "stole" it. The picking pattern is simple and standard, those chords aren't out of place in Folk or Jazz, and the progression, while standard, is unique, because of the chords chosen (inversions and extended chords for much of it). If lifted, Zep used different chords in parts and changed it up.

It's just a cash grab.

Just to let you know I'm not full of shit: I've played guitar for about 20 years. I learned a lot of music theory and I could at least get by in a lot of styles. I'm now disabled and my hands won't work like they used to (goodbye thrash metal), but I know what I'm talking about.... well, most of the time.
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13.09.2014 - 15:01
Rapid Fire
Written by Hex_Omega on 12.09.2014 at 14:04

Quote:
''Taurus'' is an okay guitar instrumental that's cute for five minutes because it sounds like the opening to one ''Stairway to Heaven''.

- Progarchives.net October 2012.
I also hear similarity but does it mean that they stole it? Btw they want to suit them now, after 43 years?

Just the same I first thought after reading this news. Sounds a little ''strange'', even more if you take into account that ''Stairwway to Heaven'' is one of the most renowned songs in music's history. And they had to wait taht much time to realize the plagiarism...? Absurd

Regarding the musical issue, I think there are some similarities in the chords but aren't the same. Also, ''Stairway to Heaven'' is much more than these simple chords.
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Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
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13.09.2014 - 17:43
Dane Train
Beers & Kilts
As far as Led Zeppelin "ripping off" other artists in their early days goes, they sure did. But remember, they were a blues/rock act. The only reason the band ever existed was to fulfill tour dates for The Yardbirds, another blues rock band. If you look at that whole British blues scene from the 1960's they were all playing old American blues tunes. Cream, Black Sabbath, Mountain, Deep Purple, etc. all did covers and modern versions of 50 year old songs. So with Led Zeppelin having to tour with out ever actually being a band it only makes sense that they would play old songs they all new. This happens all the time. Back in the 1980's Metallica would play shows and only half the songs would be their originals. My band does the same thing, we have about 50 minutes of original material and so to make an hour or more set we'll cover some 80's new wave songs. Getting back to Led Zeppelin, a lot of what they covered in their early days were songs that were in public domain or considered "traditional" songs. Even their latter career saw this with "Nobody's Fault But Mine" being an old gospel song that they just changed up slightly.
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13.09.2014 - 18:06
krrrrebets
Account deleted
Why is this nessecary? Especially in 2014?!! It's a little similar yes, but accusation of plagiarism is far too much.
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13.09.2014 - 18:57
Svneatr
Vitharr
Does the statute of limitations apply to copyright claims? Sounds like it's far too late to sue.
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13.09.2014 - 19:04
Ilham
Giant robot
Written by Svneatr on 13.09.2014 at 18:57

Does the statute of limitations apply to copyright claims? Sounds like it's far too late to sue.

There is no statute of limitations on moral rights to artistic work. Which means that the person who inherits the piece has the right to defend it in court if plagiarised. The patrimonial rights have a statute of limitations of 70 years in Europe.
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14.09.2014 - 12:59
theFIST
Written by Daniell on 12.09.2014 at 12:17

Seeing as LZ stole quite a lot from other artists and didn't acknowledge their theft at the time when they released their albums

no, they did not steal anything, they copied
the other artists still have and can use the music they came up with
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Written by Warman on 07.11.2007 at 22:39
Haha, that's like saying "compose your own Metal album and upload it here, instead of writing a review of an album". :lol:
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16.09.2014 - 01:17
Reverend X
Hilarious. it's all about money.
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