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Led Zeppelin Win Important Rulings in "Stairway to Heaven" Lawsuit

Led Zeppelin may receive the benefits of important rulings made in the lawsuit for plagiarism of Stairway to Heaven.

Lawyers for the estate of the late-Randy California of the group Spirit have been pursuing a case against Led Zeppelin for a number of years claiming that the opening guitar part for Stairway to Heaven was stolen from the Spirit instrumental track Taurus.

The claim is based on Led Zeppelin opening for spirit early in their career starting on December 26, 1968. That night, Spirit played the track Taurus during their show and claim members of Zeppelin heard the song and, less than two years later, incorporated the guitar part when writing Stairway to Heaven.

Spirit bassist Mark Andes has also said in the past that Zeppelin had, most likely, listened to Taurus beyond that time as they also started the Spirit song Fresh-Garbage in their set which appeared on the same side of their self-titled album as Taurus.

On Monday, a judge made it harder for lawyers for California's estate to argue their case through a number of rulings:
  • The only version of Taurus that will be allowed to be played during the trial will be those that were filed with the copyright office in 1967. Other versions that the plaintiff's lawyers wanted to present that, presumably, showed the similarities between guitar passages even better, are now off limits.
  • The expert's written opinions that were to be submitted at trial that were based on the disallowed recordings have been rejected. The plaintiff's lawyers have five days to submit new reports based only on the allowed recordings.
  • All testimony on Led Zeppelin's history of plagiarism is barred. The only evidence that will be allowed will be two quotes made by Jimmy Page, himself, in magazine articles on how he wrote music.
  • There will be no testimony on the drinking or drug habits of the members of Led Zeppelin.
  • There will be no testimony on the wealth of the members of the group.
The trial is scheduled to start on May 10.

Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven may be the best known piece of music that was never officially released as a single and, therefore, never charted (the Beatles' Michelle is a close second). Nevertheless, Stairway is one of the most played songs in radio history and regularly tops fan polls as the greatest record of the rock era.