Led Zeppelin moves for dismissal of copyright suit

By Jim Boyle | Sep 22, 2014

Attorneys representing the surviving original members of classic rock band Led Zeppelin

filed a motion last week to have a copyright infringement dismissed from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

According to the supporting memorandum, the suit filed by the executor of Randy Wolfe's estate does not belong in the Pennsylvania venue, based on the fact that none of the band members live in the commonwealth, and the plaintiff, Michael Skidmore, resides in Massachusetts.

The original complaint alleges that that Led Zeppelin guitarist and producer Jimmy Page lifted the beginning of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from ‘Taurus’, a song Wolfe (a.k.a. Randy California) wrote and released in 1967 with his own band, Spirit.

The suit claims that the band members Led Zeppelin knew about ‘Taurus’ because they were Spirit’s opening act in the late 1960s, well-before the 1971 release of their fourth album, which features ‘Stairway to Heaven.’

The claim says that Wolfe’s music made a lasting impression on the band, Page in particular. Excerpts from old interviews are included in the suit, including quotes from a 1972 issue of Zig Zag magazine where Page says Spirit’s performance struck him at an emotional level. The band also used covered another Spirit song, “Fresh Garbage,” during live performances.

The complaint contends that the band's infringement of Wolfe's guitar riff had national and worldwide implications, due to the popularity of "Stairway to Heaven," making the Pennsylvania venue proper. Led Zeppelin's attorneys counter that besides the lack of residence by either party, the song was not written in Pennsylvania and there are no witnesses living in Pennsylvania.

If the motion to dismiss is denied, the defendants have also asked to transfer the matter to a California district court, where most of the witnesses reside.

Wolfe's estate is represented by Media, Pa., attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy. The defendants are represented by Michael Eidel of Fox Rothschild.

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