Led Zeppelin to face trial in copyright row over Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin founders Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are to go to trial after being accused of stealing the intro to their hit 'Stairway to Heaven'.
The legendary rockers are being forced to explain the production of their most recognisable song released in 1971 because it has been claimed the late Randy Wolfe - also known as Randy California whose band Spirit played on the same bill as Led Zeppelin in the 1960s - should be given a writing credit on the track and share of royalties.
Los Angeles district Gary Judge Klausner said the similarities between the first two minutes of 'Stairway to Heaven' and an instrumental by Wolfe on Spirit's song 'Taurus' "transcend" the standard "four-chord progression" that is commonly used in songwriting and has now called for a jury to decide on the matter.
He said: "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.
"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."
The trial has been scheduled for 10 May.
Wolfe tragically drowned in Hawaii on January 2, 1997 trying to save his 12-year-old son from a rip current and it is his trustee, Michael Skidmore, who has brought the copyright infringement action against the two Led Zeppelin songwriters.
Shortly before he died at the age of 45, Wolfe told Listener magazine he believed 'Stairway To Heaven' was a "rip-off" of his own track with Page and Plant regularly hearing 'Taurus' when Spirit supported Led Zeppelin in 1968 and 1969.
He said: "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 a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it."
Plant, 67, and Page, 72, have argued that the chord progression is too widely known to be protected by copyright, while they wrote the song at a remote cottage in Wales with no access to Spirit's music.