In the world of music, allegations for copyright infringement are frequent but often unsuccessfully or thrown out by the judge. A recent complaint originating from the state of Pennsylvania alleging that Led Zeppelin stole the legendary intro to “Stairway to Heaven” from an obscure band called Spirit was no exception. The complaint proved to be frivolous but the dialogue between Zeppelin and Spirit did yield some highly amusing fragments of legal documents. But first, the facts of the case.
The complaint was filed by the heirs of the Randy California estate who filed suit on behalf of the leader of band called Spirit which Led Zeppelin opened up for in 1968. The representatives of the trust argue that the opening passage of “Stairway to Heaven” was pilfered from Spirit’s unknown song “Taurus.” It was established at the 1:37 mark of “Taurus” that a passage of five or six descending notes were similar to a bassline involved in “Stairway to Heaven.” However, the court felt that it was hardly enough to merit an infringement claim.
But, the lawyers drafting the complaint on behalf of Spirit should receive some credit. Paragraph 11 of the complaint reads: “Led Zeppelin is undeniably one of the greatest bands in history, and their musical talent is boundless. However, what happened to Randy California and Spirit is wrong.”
The answer to the complaint (Led Zeppelin’s representation) is as follows: “Defendants admit that Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands in history and its members were and are exceptionally talented, but otherwise deny each and every allegation contained in paragraph 11.”
All I can say is rock on Led Zeppelin’s attorney. The answer to the plaintiff’s complaint can only be described as a reflection of the client’s music: hard hitting and profound.