Led Zeppelin denied dismissal of copyright infringement suit

By Jim Boyle | Oct 22, 2014

The battle over a few bars from a classic rock song will remain in Pennsylvania federal

court, according to a recent ruling by a judge at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Judge Juan Sanchez has denied the motion filed by members of Led Zeppelin seeking to dismiss a copyright infringement case on jurisdictional grounds. The suit was filed in Pennsylvania in May 2014, saying the venue was appropriate because the song is nationally recognized and had been played on Pennsylvania radio stations and performed by the band throughout the state.

The heirs to the estate of Randy Craig Wolfe have accused the band of stealing the opening guitar riff from the musician, also known as Randy California. According to numerous interviews given by guitarist Jimmy Page, the melody came to him while writing music in a small cottage in Wales in the 1960s.

The suit claims that Led Zeppelin lifted the guitar riff from California's song "Taurus," when they opened for his band, Spirit, in the late '60s.

“Parts of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ instantly recognizable to the music fans
across the world, sound almost identical to significant portions of ‘Taurus,’” the suit says. “Any reasonable observer, when comparing ‘Taurus’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ must conclude that—at the very least—significant portions of the songs are nearly identical.”

The suit also says that this is not the first time that charges of plagiarism have been leveled at Led Zeppelin. A chart shows 17 instances with various outcomes, such as the 1969 song “How Many More Times,” which the band gave credit in 1993 to Howlin’ Wolf’s 1959 song with the same title.

The Wolfe estate is represented by Media, Pa., attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy.

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