ledzeppelin400 Eriq Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter reports:

Led Zeppelin is stuck in Pennsylvania at the moment, forced to confront claims forced to confront claims the band stole its biggest hit Stairway to Heaven from Randy Craig Wolfe, founding member of the band Spirit.

Wolfe’s heirs sued Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and their music companies in June, asserting that the story Page has told over the years about holing himself up in a remote cottage in Wales in 1970 and creating the iconic song is false. The plaintiff alleges that the music really came from Spirit, which once toured with Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s. To hear the song in question, please click here.

In reaction to the lawsuit, the defendants challenged jurisdiction.

“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,” stated a memorandum to dismiss.

In response, the plaintiff amended the lawsuit with some emphasis on why a Pennsylvania judge should oversee the case: “Defendants are subject to specific jurisdiction in this district because they make millions of dollars from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by directly targeting this district for the exploitation of Stairway to Heaven through CD sales, digital downloading, radio and television play, advertising, marketing, concert performances, other performances, licensing, and otherwise targeting resident individuals and businesses to profit off the exploitation of Stairway to Heaven.’

U.S. District Court Judge Juan Sánchez has now denied the motion to dismiss or transfer without prejudice, meaning that the Zeppelin parties can still try again.

The judge didn’t offer any reasoning in his written order, but those looking for the standards by which judges determine jurisdiction can read about another judge’s recent decision to throw out a trademark lawsuit filed by John Wayne’s heirs against Duke University.

source: hollywoodreporter.com

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  • Nic on

    With only seven notes just rearranged in their respective keys, one can find this sort of similarity all over the place with the millions of songs recorded to date. The only true ripoffs worthy of lawsuits have been in these rap songs over the years. Based on this news, I guess we’re lucky Chuck Berry is a nice guy; otherwise, he could sue nearly every guitarist out there and become the richest man in the world.

  • Andrew on

    Totally frivolous lawsuit. I guess Max Frost will go after Ritchie Blackmore for Black Night. Check out the similarity to Nothing Can Change the Shape of Things to Come. But as cool as the riff is it wasn’t really a big hit. And not only Chuck Berry but Bo Diddley can sue everyone who took his Beat.

    • Harry Taint on

      No, but I heard the Hobbits called and they want Ritchie to quit wearing their clothes.

    • DR on

      Interesting you mention Bo Diddley. His name never comes up as much as it should when talking about early influential guitarists who helped define the sound and style of rock n roll. IMO, he is actually the most influential guitarist that helped shape the modern metal sound that started happening in the late 60’s and 70’s.

  • MNM on

    The statute typically expires in five years with these kind of things.

    Unfortunately, every time a catalogue is reissued it starts the clock again. Hence, the wonderful timing.

  • metalmania on

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, there’s only so many notes you can play and there ARE “rules” or maybe better stated as guidelines as to what is regarded as the “correct” way to play music. They’re called keys, and there are centuries old accepted norms as to the chords and which progressions you should play them in for them to sound “right”. This doesn’t mean you have to strictly adhere to those guidelines, veering outside of them is often what creates tension and excitement in music, but generally speaking if you ignore them completely you sound like crap. Metal wouldn’t sound like metal without heavy distortion, root/5th power chords and chugging on the low E a lot, blues doesn’t sound like blues without using classic blues chord progressions and minor pentatonic and “blues” scales. Same for country, classical, reggae, whatever you want. It’s the subtle variations in rhythm, tone, nuances of the player, song structures, choice of instrument, etc. that make music unique. Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King could play the same chords and a solo using exactly the same mixture of notes but they still wouldn’t sound the same. This Spirit song and Stairway to Heaven seem to share the same descending arpeggiated chord(s) at the beginning, but they divert after that. The picking of the chord is similar but not exactly the same, and after that figure they’re clearly not the same. Nobody can copyright a chord, and even IF they did decide to model the intro to Stairway on that part of “Taurus”, what about the rest of the song? It’s quite a leap to suggest that if not for that opening figure the rest of the song wouldn’t have been written.

  • Mike M. on

    I’ve listened to the excerpt from the Spirit song a few times now, and to say that it’s a “stretch” to compare it to “Stairway” is a HUGE understatement. You really have to “squint”, so to speak, and even then it’s weak at best. Especially when there are so many more examples of borrowing/stealing from song to song that are so much more blatant. Listen to U2’s “Vertigo” (if you can stomach it) – the chorus sounds exactly like the chorus on the Supreme’s “You keep me hangin’ on”. But no one in the music bizz ever questions/challenges the mighty U2, God forbid! I hope the Judge ends up telling those bringing suit against Zep to “stop wasting everyone’s time”. Of course, “Get out of my court you gold-digging douche bags!” would be way more satisfying. Hey, I can dream.

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