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8 hours ago, ScarletMacaw said:

In truth I don't like the way this lawsuit is being handled. It seems to be being handled in a way that maximizes profits for the attorneys. 

You haven't been around lawyers long enough. 

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On January 24, 2016 at 2:47 PM, Disco Duck said:

It may have come down to the cow bell.  Without it I might have listened to Blurred Lines and thought: "this song has a nice retro vibe."  The inclusion of the cow bell made me think: "this sounds like that Marvin Gaye song they always play at family reunions and block parties."

The one time where, MORE COW BELL, was a bad idea.

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Led Zeppelin Stumbles in 'Stairway' Lawsuit

 

Led Zeppelin has hit a bum note in the lawsuit over its mega-hit "Stairway to Heaven."

 

The group has lost a bid to obtain further information in a copyright infringement lawsuit claiming that "Stairway" infringes on the Spirit song "Taurus."

 

Attorneys for the band had sought information on the Randy Craig Wolfe trust, of which plaintiff Michael Skidmore serves as trustee. (Randy Craig Wolfe was the given name of Randy California, a founding member of Spirit and author of "Taurus." Wolfe died in 1997.)

 

Team Zep had claimed that the Wolfe trust is only valid if it is a qualified charitable foundation or other qualified entity, and claims that Skidmore's legal team hasn't provided evidence to that effect. Zeppelin's lawyers asked Skidmore's team to provide proof, such as Internal Revenue Service notices or correspondence.

 

But on Friday, U.S. magistrate judge Alicia G. Rosenberg sided with Skidmore on the matter.

 

"Defendants do not explain the relevance of the requested documents to the ownership inquiry" under the cited U.S. Code, Rosenberg found, "or how such discovery is proportional to the needs of the case."

 

In papers filed by Skidmore's legal team earlier this month, Zeppelin was accused of undertaking a "pure fishing expedition."

 

"There is no evidence to cast even the slightest bit of shade on the validity of the Trust, nor have Defendants argued that there is any real reason to doubt the validity of the Trust," the papers read.

 

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Led Zeppelin Rock Gods Deposed in Stairway to Heaven Lawsuit

Copyright claim unearths early recordings and financial records

Vernon Silver VTSilver
February 3, 2016 — 12:37 PM EST

Led Zeppelin Performing

Singer Robert Plant, right, and guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin in 1976.

 
Source: Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images
 

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin have all been questioned in a lawsuit that alleges their hit Stairway to Heaven was filched from an obscure song by the band Spirit. Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant were each deposed separately over the past month as part of pretrial discovery in the copyright infringement case, new filings in Los Angeles federal court show.

During the depositions in London, they all said that they had no idea what their finances or earnings were with Led Zeppelin, according to a filing by the plaintiff's lawyer asking for more time to investigate. The musicians and their record company, Warner Music, deny the infringement allegations and say Plant and Page alone composed the 1971 song.

To many ears, the opening notes of Stairway to Heaven sound a lot like Taurus, an instrumental piece released on Spirit’s debut album in 1968 (decide for yourself here). At the end of that year and throughout 1969, Spirit and Led Zeppelin shared the bill at several concerts.

 
Led Zeppelin's guitarist, however, testified his memory of the era was vague, according to the filing by plaintiff's lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy, who conducted the questioning. "Jimmy Page’s discovery answers [the] claim that he remembers virtually nothing about the 1960s or 1970s despite many public interviews concerning Spirit where he stated that he listened to the band’s albums and that they struck him on an emotional level, despite the fact that he played and attended concerts where Spirit performed," Malofiy wrote.

Spirit guitarist Randy California, who composed Taurus, died in 1997. Malofiy, representing the head of the trust that oversees California's royalties, filed the suit in May 2014. The Philadelphia-area lawyer now wants the court to push the trial date from May to July, in part to give him more time to process the mountains of information he's gotten in discovery—including 40,000 pages of financial records.

The fight has potentially high stakes. By 2008, when Conde Nast Portfolio magazine published an estimate that included royalties and record sales for Stairway to Heaven, the hit had earned at least $562 million. If the suit succeeds, a three-year statute of limitations would limit the award to the most recent earnings. "Stairway to Heaven is notoriously one of the most protected and valuable pieces of intellectual property in history and thus it is crucial for Plaintiff’s damages experts to be able to fully evaluate all relevant information to come to a competent opinion," Malofiy wrote.

Should the case come to trial, it might make for good listening. The Led Zeppelin legal team says preliminary recordings prepared in the creation of Stairway to Heaven have been located, according to their response to discovery requests. And the two sides are still battling over whether the defendants should turn over a so-called multi-track version of the song that would allow music experts to isolate the different elements of the song. According to Malofiy's filings, the very existence of the multi-track was unknown until recent weeks.

 
Edited by Patrycja

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Just now, Patrycja said:

Led Zeppelin Rock Gods Deposed in Stairway to Heaven Lawsuit

Copyright claim unearths early recordings and financial records

Vernon Silver VTSilver
February 3, 2016 — 12:37 PM EST

Led Zeppelin Performing

Singer Robert Plant, right, and guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin in 1976.

 
Source: Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images
 

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin have all been questioned in a lawsuit that alleges their hit Stairway to Heaven was filched from an obscure song by the band Spirit. Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant were each deposed separately over the past month as part of pretrial discovery in the copyright infringement case, new filings in Los Angeles federal court show.

During the depositions in London, they all said that they had no idea what their finances or earnings were with Led Zeppelin, according to a filing by the plaintiff's lawyer asking for more time to investigate. The musicians and their record company, Warner Music, deny the infringement allegations and say Plant and Page alone composed the 1971 song.

To many ears, the opening notes of Stairway to Heaven sound a lot like Taurus, an instrumental piece released on Spirit’s debut album in 1968 (decide for yourself here). At the end of that year and throughout 1969, Spirit and Led Zeppelin shared the bill at several concerts.

 
Led Zeppelin's guitarist, however, testified his memory of the era was vague, according to the filing by plaintiff's lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy, who conducted the questioning. "Jimmy Page’s discovery answers [the] claim that he remembers virtually nothing about the 1960s or 1970s despite many public interviews concerning Spirit where he stated that he listened to the band’s albums and that they struck him on an emotional level, despite the fact that he played and attended concerts where Spirit performed," Malofiy wrote.

Spirit guitarist Randy California, who composed Taurus, died in 1997. Malofiy, representing the head of the trust that oversees California's royalties, filed the suit in May 2014. The Philadelphia-area lawyer now wants the court to push the trial date from May to July, in part to give him more time to process the mountains of information he's gotten in discovery—including 40,000 pages of financial records.

The fight has potentially high stakes. By 2008, when Conde Nast Portfolio magazine published an estimate that included royalties and record sales for Stairway to Heaven, the hit had earned at least $562 million. If the suit succeeds, a three-year statute of limitations would limit the award to the most recent earnings. "Stairway to Heaven is notoriously one of the most protected and valuable pieces of intellectual property in history and thus it is crucial for Plaintiff’s damages experts to be able to fully evaluate all relevant information to come to a competent opinion," Malofiy wrote.

Should the case come to trial, it might make for good listening. The Led Zeppelin legal team says preliminary recordings prepared in the creation of Stairway to Heaven have been located, according to their response to discovery requests. And the two sides are still battling over whether the defendants should turn over a so-called multi-track version of the song that would allow music experts to isolate the different elements of the song. According to Malofiy's filings, the very existence of the multi-track was unknown until recent weeks.

 

The ultimate rock star defense:  "Dude, we're talking about the late Sixties and the Seventies.  Drugs and booze were there for the taking, much like the groupies.  I spent much of that period high or wasted so  my memory of specific events is kinda fuzzy."

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^ lol well no deposition happens without discussions and preparation with lawyers. None of them recall...

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This whole thing is ridiculous for sure as "Taurus" sounds nothing like Stairway, any musician would agree. It's just Randy's family getting greedy trying to get their hands on some of that Stairway money, yet Zep did all the work and made a classic...Taurus? Not so much. In fact, at best, Taurus is a hokey piece of unlistenable, unmemorable garbage. It's akin to some zero talent art student trying to sue Rembrandt for ripping him off 45 years after the fact just because he also used the color yellow in his painting. If it's sounds so much like it, why sue 45 years after the fact? Shouldn't there be a time limit to sue someone like in personal injury cases? Also, if the plaintiff's lawyer asking for more time to investigate, that's not a good sign the plaintiff has a case. They are money hunting, nothing more. If only Peter Grant's was still around, someone would already be in the emergency room...

The judge needs to get his hearing checked.

That being said, I've got my copy so it doesn't matter to me!

Edited by Tea41

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3 hours ago, Tea41 said:

This whole thing is ridiculous for sure as "Taurus" sounds nothing like Stairway, any musician would agree. It's just Randy's family getting greedy trying to get their hands on some of that Stairway money, yet Zep did all the work and made a classic...Taurus? Not so much. In fact, at best, Taurus is a hokey piece of unlistenable, unmemorable garbage. It's akin to some zero talent art student trying to sue Rembrandt for ripping him off 45 years after the fact just because he also used the color yellow in his painting. If it's sounds so much like it, why sue 45 years after the fact? Shouldn't there be a time limit to sue someone like in personal injury cases? Also, if the plaintiff's lawyer asking for more time to investigate, that's not a good sign the plaintiff has a case. They are money hunting, nothing more. If only Peter Grant's was still around, someone would already be in the emergency room...

The judge needs to get his hearing checked.

That being said, I've got my copy so it doesn't matter to me!

+1

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R i d i c u l o u s

What's next? Randy's estate will get a "musical CSI team" to take the first 5 seconds
of Stairway and play it back in some micro fraction second frame speed to prove it
sounds like Taurus. They are grasping. The fact somebody can't plop a CD in and
listen or just simply read the sheet music tells me they don't have much of a case.
Yes I know it's not always cut and dry like that, but c'mon I find it assinine that 45
years later they want to prove the songs opening are the same? Why? Because in
1972 it wasn't monetarily worth it yet?!
<_<-_-

And this lawyer needs to stop acting like the 5 seconds they are suing over was this
make or break part in the song  and without "Randy's part" the song would never have
had the impact it's had on music.
:blink:  Puh-lease it's not the lyrics or the damn guitar solo
now. Randy does not deserve a writing credit nor does his estate deserve some ridiculous
royalty pay out. I'm all for the little people getting their day in the sun - when deserved,
but nah not this. Not even close.

I realize I sound like some silly L Z fan haha, who clearly has no clue about this, but to wait
45 years after the song has become like a form of a holy grail in the music world and seek
a pay out  just makes me roll my eyes.
:rolleyes: 

 

Edited by KellyGirl

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Damn, I'm going to keep posting this until a musically literate judge throws the whole thing out:

 

 

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5 hours ago, GeorgeC said:

Damn, I'm going to keep posting this until a musically literate judge throws the whole thing out:

 

 

As the layman I am....

CLEARLY 2 different songs. No case.

....NEXT.

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5 hours ago, rm2551 said:

As the layman I am....

CLEARLY 2 different songs. No case.

....NEXT.

Well done. 2 very different songs, not even a shadow of a doubt this is a frivolous golddigging lawsuit, should have been thrown out, in fact, laughed out of court immediately. Stairway is such a higher class of original music it's mindboggling, not to mention the song as a whole could not be more different. STH is a timeless masterpiece, and "Taurus" is a turd that is best forgotten. In fact STH is the best thing to ever happen to Spirit, any fame they got, which isn't much, is because of it's unfounded "association" with Stairway. NO CASE WHATSOEVER.

Edited by Tea41

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Anyone see that new commercial with the guy playing a piano?  He clearly plays half the hook from Black Sabbath's Changes.     There are so many instances where one song sounds like another that it's stupid to even bring it up.

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Mountain clearly took the music from Taj Mahal's Leaving Trunk and turned it into Mississippi Queen. They made a few changes, slowed it down, beefed it up and wrote new lyrics on top of it. And no, they didn't give credit to Taj, and shouldn't have. And, if I'm not mistaken, a chord progression cannot be copyrighted anyways, so to me, the Stairway lawsuit is just ludicrous.

 

 

Edited by blindwillie127

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This is like a bad joke gone horribly wrong, like a bad singer being told in jest that he's awesome and he runs with it, thinking it's true. Look, there are videos posted earlier in this thread in addition to the one GeorgeC posted above that give an even more detailed account of the history of that very note sequence going back to classical music. GeorgeC's should be enough for a difference, but to chronicle its history further, I encourage people to seek it out. People and Zep's lawyers, who I'm sure are leaving no stone unturned. I mean, the Rachmaninoff family has a stronger case with the Rach 2, but you don't see that estate going after "All By Myself" writer or England for "God Save the Queen" do you?

Taurus's creator had since '71 to do something about it, and yet throughout his lifetime, nada. Curious, isn't it? I've read that 'lack of funds' prevented them from suing earlier, but now that STH has made 1/2 billion they've found some resources? Seems like lawyers for the plaintiffs are trying to conflate a causal relationship where only a temporal one exists. Yes, Spirit and Zep were around together, but that doesn't prove that the creations of one caused the other. Jimmy listens to all kinds of music, including classical, so there's no reason to think he needed Spirit for his idea, and given that he said he had bits and pieces he wanted to put together, he could very well have had that chord sequence well before they ever got together with Spirit. And the thing is, where did Spirit get it from? If it wasn't theirs to begin with (again, there's a long history of it) then they can't sue for ownership. Frankly, Stairway and Zep never needed Taurus and Spirit but Taurus and Spirit sure need Stairway and Zep for any sort of resurgence of relevancy. I hope the plaintiffs' scheme is exposed for the money grabbing attempt that it is, and they go down as taking a rep hit for it. 

I hate when anyone tries to jump on a bandwagon of a far greater creative endeavour and try to profit from it shamelessly. Plus, isn't is horrible that tour dates have to be passed on because of this wretched lawsuit? 

Here's another article about the development of proceedings:

Led Zeppelin's Long Stairway to Trial

Bickering in a copyright clash over the iconic ballad extends to tour dates, accounting aptitude, and remembering the 1960s.

Vernon Silver  VTSilver

February 4, 2016 — 1:17 PM EST

Led Zeppelin in Concert at Chicago Stadium - 1-20-1975

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, January 1975.

 
Photographer: Laurance Ratner/WireImage via Getty Images
 

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin have said some of their memories of the 1960s are a bit fuzzy. Now they're unable to answer questions about the millions of dollars they made in the 1970s: "These musicians are not accountants," lawyers for the band proclaim in their latest court filing.

Well that's just fine, responds an attorney suing them for allegedly stealing a dead rocker's song and using it to write the totemic Stairway to Heaven. Francis Alexander Malofiy, representing the late musician's trust, asked to delay a Los Angeles copyright trial from May to July, in part so he could have more time to reconstruct the band's finances from thousands of documents.

Hold on, says lead singer Robert Plant. The 67-year-old front-man says he turned down concert dates in expectation of the May trial, and the later date would conflict with a European tour. Let's get this over with, the band seems to be saying.  

This is the latest bit of bickering in an almost two-year battle that's seen clashes over music experts, multi-track tapes, and even where to hold the trial. The case stems from what, to some ears, is a similarity between Stairway and Taurus, an instrumental piece on the 1968 debut album of the band Spirit. Malofiy alleges the opening notes ofStairway, released in 1971 on Led Zeppelin IV, were lifted from it.

Spirit guitarist Randy California, who composed Taurus, died in 1997. Malofiy represents the head of a trust overseeing California's royalties, and wants some of what's been estimated to be more than a half billion dollars raked in by Stairway since it was released. (He's constrained, however, by a three-year statute of limitations.)

Plant, along with guitarist Jimmy Page, 72, and bassist John Paul Jones, 70, have all been questioned as part of the lawsuit and deny any pilfering. Plant and Page alone composed the song, they say, though Malofiy has pointed out that band members previously said their memories of the 1960s and 1970s were hazy at best. Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 shortly after drummer John Bonham died.

 

The original recordings of Stairway have also become a bone of contention in the pretrial exchange of evidence. Malofiy has said the existence of a "multi-track" version only recently came to light, and he wants a copy to analyze the song's elements. Led Zeppelin lawyers counter the existence of the original, unmixed analog tapes hasn't been a secret at all. Still, they've declined to produce the "fragile and extremely valuable" tapes because, they contend, they're irrelevant.

Also, in their latest legal broadside, the band members told a federal judge that Malofiy is being disingenuous about assessing Led Zeppelin's finances, a key component to the lawsuit. The attorney has had six months to question Led Zeppelin's London accountant, the band claims. 

In any case, if Plant, Page, and Jones get their way, not only will the lawsuit not be delayed; it will get thrown out. Their lawyers say in the new filing that they "are about to complete their discovery and look forward to filing their motion for summary judgment and ending this case."

Though the song at issue is perhaps one of the most iconic in rock history, it would seem that the legal infighting remains the same.

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-04/led-zeppelin-s-long-stairway-to-trial
 

Edited by Patrycja

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On 2/6/2016 at 3:03 AM, Tea41 said:

Well done. 2 very different songs, not even a shadow of a doubt this is a frivolous golddigging lawsuit, should have been thrown out, in fact, laughed out of court immediately. Stairway is such a higher class of original music it's mindboggling, not to mention the song as a whole could not be more different. STH is a timeless masterpiece, and "Taurus" is a turd that is best forgotten. In fact STH is the best thing to ever happen to Spirit, any fame they got, which isn't much, is because of it's unfounded "association" with Stairway. NO CASE WHATSOEVER.

IMO, turd is too harsh a description for Taurus.  It has a pleasant, meandering quality that sounds soothing.    Randy California's estate should peddle the song to companies that sell mood music for spas, message parlors and telephone hold systems.  

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A small victory for the Zep camp - the plaintiff's lawyers wanted to delay the trial to July, but the judge did not allow it. Zep lawyers hope to get the case thrown out before a potential May trial. Fingers crossed the judge sees this as the just way as well:

Stairway to Heaven Author Fight Set for May

Led Zeppelin's lawyers, however, plan to get the copyright case tossed out beforehand.

Vernon Silver   VTSilver

February 8, 2016 — 10:21 AM EST

Photo of Jimmy PAGE and Robert PLANT and LED ZEPPELIN

Robert Plant, left, and Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin. Source: Robert Knight Archive/Redferns via Getty Images

The judge presiding over a lawsuit challenging the authenticity of Led Zeppelin's signature song Stairway to Heaven rejected a bid to delay the case, setting the stage for a May trial -- if it doesn't get settled or dismissed before then.

A lawyer who contends that the British band stole portions of an obscure composition by the band Spirit for use in the ballad had asked the Los Angeles court to grant extra time, in part to gather more information about Stairway's earnings. By one estimate, the 1971 song has made more than half a billion dollars.

Surviving Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant objected to a proposed postponement to July, which would have conflicted with Plant's European summer tour.

The case stems from what, to some ears, is a similarity between Stairway and Taurus, an instrumental piece released on Spirit’s debut album in 1968. The musicians deny the infringement allegations and say Plant and Page alone wrote the song. Spirit guitarist Randy California, who composed Taurus, died in 1997. The trustee who handles his royalties sued in May 2014, claiming "falsification of rock 'n' roll history."

The dispute may soon come to a head. The court has scheduled a settlement conference next month for the opposing parties to try to resolve the dispute. But Led Zeppelin also says they plan to file a motion for summary judgment to end the case.

In his latest action, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner turned down the proposed extension with a red "DENIED" stamp across the top -- calling to mind this backhanded homage to Stairway to Heaven from the film Wayne's World.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-08/stairway-to-heaven-author-fight-set-for-may

^ "... falsification of rock 'n' roll history"? Oh really?! The cheek! It's exactly what the plaintiff's trying to do, and I hope that's exactly what gets exposed. May Spirit and 'Taurus' go from a sentence in the R&R discussion to a footnote.

Edited by Patrycja

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A glimmer of hope...

Why ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Lawsuit Poses ‘Uphill Battle’ for Plaintiff

 By Tim Kenneally on February 15, 2016 @ 2:53 pm

led zeppelin robert plant jimmy page john paul jones john bonham

“I think it’s less than 50 percent” that Michael Skidmore will prevail in copyright infringement case against Led Zeppelin, entertainment attorney offers

The man suing Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement over their iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” is going to have a tough time proving his case in court, according to one legal expert.

Entertainment attorney James Sammataro, managing partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan’s Miami office, told TheWrap that Michael Skidmore will face “an uphill battle” and “a steep hurdle” as he tries to prove that the classic 1971 tune infringes on the 1968 Spirit song “Taurus.”

Led Zeppelin is being sued by Skidmore, trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, who claims that “Stairway” infringes on the earlier song. (Randy Craig Wolfe was the birth name of Spirit frontman and “Taurus” author Randy California, who died in 1997.)

Sammataro told TheWrap, “I definitely think there’s a hint of familiarity [between the two songs] to a layman’s ears.” And Zeppelin opened for Spirit on one of the former’s early tours, meaning that there was a decent chance that Jimmy Page and his bandmates had heard “Taurus.”

But, Sammataro told TheWrap, that doesn’t necessarily tilt the case in Skidmore’s favor. Sammataro cautioned that it isn’t a matter of proving whether the two songs are similar, but rather how similar they are.

“You can copy. Not all copying or parrotry is piracy,” Sammataro said. “You have to take enough [to constitute infringement]. … Is it just that they borrowed a couple of chords and it sounds alike? Did they borrow a progression that sounds similar? Or is this really a wholesale quantitative lifting that’s going to give rise to a claim?”

Venue is another factor working against Skidmore. While the suit was initially filed in Pennsylvania, it has since been transferred to California, specifically to a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles — where, Sammataro said, the threshold for establishing grounds for an infringement case is higher than average.

“It’s a studio-friendly jurisdiction,” Sammataro said. “As a consequence, when there’s had to be a benefit of the doubt, courts have typically erred on the side of big businesses.”

Sammataro is skeptical that the case will make it past the summary judgment phase. Much of that will depend on whether Skidmore’s music expert can pinpoint precise and substantial similarities.

“That will be key,” Sammataro said. “If that all gels together, then I’d say they have more than a puncher’s chance.”

Sammataro doubts that the parties will settle in this case. For one thing, the iconic status of the song, possibly Zeppelin’s most famous, will up the stakes for Page and his bandmates. “There may be a little bit of, ‘I need to protect my integrity and credibility on this one,'” the attorney said.

The financial stakes are also high — as of 2008, the song had generated an estimated $562 million in revenue. The sheer dollar volume itself could make it difficult to reach a settlement, according to Sammataro.

So how much money could be involved if the lawsuit goes forward? According to Sammataro, infringement cases of this nature typically have a three-year statute of limitations period, meaning potential damages would go back to three years before the filing of the complaint. While “Stairway to Heaven” surely isn’t selling like it did in the ’70s, the album containing the track, unofficially titled “Led Zeppelin IV,” was reissued in 2014. And the song is still a prominent presence on classic-rock radio stations’ playlists.

Skidmore’s legal team will also probably argue that the popularity of the song generated peripheral revenues — say, by boosting the group’s profile overall and leading to increased album sales for the rest of its catalog.

“Would I be shocked if they came up with a damages model that was north of $50 million? No,” Sammataro said.

Which doesn’t mean that they’d get that, by a long shot. As Sammataro noted, if he were to be presented with a 10-figure settlement amount, “I would say, ‘See you at trial.'” However, he said, he’d “maybe start listening at $2.5 million.”

And the chances of Skidmore prevailing in the case are still against him, according to Sammataro. While the attorney believes that “ultimately this is a case that comes down to experts,” he added, “I still think its an uphill battle. I think it’s less than 50 percent. I just don’t know where on that less-than-50-percent spectrum.”

Presumably, that will depend not just on whether the songs remain the same, but just how much the same a jury determines them to be.

http://www.thewrap.com/why-stairway-to-heaven-lawsuit-poses-uphill-battle-for-plaintiff/

I really hope that Zep's lawyers have musicologists who can prove definitively that that sequence of notes has appeared in many songs and melodies even before 'Taurus'. I was thinking it's too bad Randy California passed away because he can't be asked about where he heard it from (and maybe check his record collection for influences), but that isn't necessary even if a temporal relationship between Spirit and Zep existed, even if Jimmy potentially heard 'Taurus'. None of that matters as much as proving that a ) Jimmy heard that sequence of notes in several other compositions that were created and recorded before 'Taurus' and b ) the musicologists showing the differences between 'Taurus' and STH. Hopefully there's no settlement of any sort; even though it may be a tactic to just make this all go away, it can be perceived as a tacit admission of influence. It would be a shame for a song of such iconic stature to be tarnished in this way. But it's not only about appearances; this is not a just suit and should be proven as such conclusively.

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2 hours ago, Patrycja said:

A glimmer of hope...

Why ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Lawsuit Poses ‘Uphill Battle’ for Plaintiff

 By Tim Kenneally on February 15, 2016 @ 2:53 pm

led zeppelin robert plant jimmy page john paul jones john bonham

“I think it’s less than 50 percent” that Michael Skidmore will prevail in copyright infringement case against Led Zeppelin, entertainment attorney offers

The man suing Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement over their iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” is going to have a tough time proving his case in court, according to one legal expert.

Entertainment attorney James Sammataro, managing partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan’s Miami office, told TheWrap that Michael Skidmore will face “an uphill battle” and “a steep hurdle” as he tries to prove that the classic 1971 tune infringes on the 1968 Spirit song “Taurus.”

Led Zeppelin is being sued by Skidmore, trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, who claims that “Stairway” infringes on the earlier song. (Randy Craig Wolfe was the birth name of Spirit frontman and “Taurus” author Randy California, who died in 1997.)

Sammataro told TheWrap, “I definitely think there’s a hint of familiarity [between the two songs] to a layman’s ears.” And Zeppelin opened for Spirit on one of the former’s early tours, meaning that there was a decent chance that Jimmy Page and his bandmates had heard “Taurus.”

But, Sammataro told TheWrap, that doesn’t necessarily tilt the case in Skidmore’s favor. Sammataro cautioned that it isn’t a matter of proving whether the two songs are similar, but rather how similar they are.

“You can copy. Not all copying or parrotry is piracy,” Sammataro said. “You have to take enough [to constitute infringement]. … Is it just that they borrowed a couple of chords and it sounds alike? Did they borrow a progression that sounds similar? Or is this really a wholesale quantitative lifting that’s going to give rise to a claim?”

Venue is another factor working against Skidmore. While the suit was initially filed in Pennsylvania, it has since been transferred to California, specifically to a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles — where, Sammataro said, the threshold for establishing grounds for an infringement case is higher than average.

“It’s a studio-friendly jurisdiction,” Sammataro said. “As a consequence, when there’s had to be a benefit of the doubt, courts have typically erred on the side of big businesses.”

Sammataro is skeptical that the case will make it past the summary judgment phase. Much of that will depend on whether Skidmore’s music expert can pinpoint precise and substantial similarities.

“That will be key,” Sammataro said. “If that all gels together, then I’d say they have more than a puncher’s chance.”

Sammataro doubts that the parties will settle in this case. For one thing, the iconic status of the song, possibly Zeppelin’s most famous, will up the stakes for Page and his bandmates. “There may be a little bit of, ‘I need to protect my integrity and credibility on this one,'” the attorney said.

The financial stakes are also high — as of 2008, the song had generated an estimated $562 million in revenue. The sheer dollar volume itself could make it difficult to reach a settlement, according to Sammataro.

So how much money could be involved if the lawsuit goes forward? According to Sammataro, infringement cases of this nature typically have a three-year statute of limitations period, meaning potential damages would go back to three years before the filing of the complaint. While “Stairway to Heaven” surely isn’t selling like it did in the ’70s, the album containing the track, unofficially titled “Led Zeppelin IV,” was reissued in 2014. And the song is still a prominent presence on classic-rock radio stations’ playlists.

Skidmore’s legal team will also probably argue that the popularity of the song generated peripheral revenues — say, by boosting the group’s profile overall and leading to increased album sales for the rest of its catalog.

“Would I be shocked if they came up with a damages model that was north of $50 million? No,” Sammataro said.

Which doesn’t mean that they’d get that, by a long shot. As Sammataro noted, if he were to be presented with a 10-figure settlement amount, “I would say, ‘See you at trial.'” However, he said, he’d “maybe start listening at $2.5 million.”

And the chances of Skidmore prevailing in the case are still against him, according to Sammataro. While the attorney believes that “ultimately this is a case that comes down to experts,” he added, “I still think its an uphill battle. I think it’s less than 50 percent. I just don’t know where on that less-than-50-percent spectrum.”

Presumably, that will depend not just on whether the songs remain the same, but just how much the same a jury determines them to be.

http://www.thewrap.com/why-stairway-to-heaven-lawsuit-poses-uphill-battle-for-plaintiff/

I really hope that Zep's lawyers have musicologists who can prove definitively that that sequence of notes has appeared in many songs and melodies even before 'Taurus'. I was thinking it's too bad Randy California passed away because he can't be asked about where he heard it from (and maybe check his record collection for influences), but that isn't necessary even if a temporal relationship between Spirit and Zep existed, even if Jimmy potentially heard 'Taurus'. None of that matters as much as proving that a ) Jimmy heard that sequence of notes in several other compositions that were created and recorded before 'Taurus' and b ) the musicologists showing the differences between 'Taurus' and STH. Hopefully there's no settlement of any sort; even though it may be a tactic to just make this all go away, it can be perceived as a tacit admission of influence. It would be a shame for a song of such iconic stature to be tarnished in this way. But it's not only about appearances; this is not a just suit and should be proven as such conclusively.

You want to know where Randy heard the progression from, well, the contemporary source which most are familiar with is Davey Graham's Cry Me A River. You can check it out on YouTube. However, Graham's song which appeared in 1959 was just another in a very long line which used this progression. Graham himself even commented on it back in the 70's saying exactly that. Graham is one of the most influential British guitarist that most people have never heard of, and is one of the most educated, gracious, and humble as well. A true gentleman and a musicologist of the highest calibre. Maybe they can just call Graham as a witness, if they did the case would fall like a led balloon...

Edited by IpMan

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2 hours ago, Patrycja said:

Skidmore’s legal team will also probably argue that the popularity of the song generated peripheral revenues — say, by boosting the group’s profile overall and leading to increased album sales for the rest of its catalog.

Indeed, but I think it's beyond a doubt that this lawsuit has similarly boosted the profile, and probably sales, of Spirit's material. Who'd even heard of Spirit before this lawsuit? The cynic in me thinks that's probably what's underlying this whole lawsuit in the first place. Whether Spirit wins or loses the case, they still win in the end.

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Has there been any documents or statements made in the last 45 years that mentioned Stairway being stolen ??    Hell the first 3 chord strokes could very well be the same chords to the US National Anthem.

Jimmy did a video interview sometime after the Outrider tour or so talking about the sexy beauty of the guitar and even used like a mathematical comparison by the number of frets on the guitar and strings ...or something, makes the evolution of music endless possibilities. 

Edited by TheGreatOne

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On 2/17/2016 at 11:13 PM, IpMan said:

You want to know where Randy heard the progression from, well, the contemporary source which most are familiar with is Davey Graham's Cry Me A River. You can check it out on YouTube. However, Graham's song which appeared in 1959 was just another in a very long line which used this progression. Graham himself even commented on it back in the 70's saying exactly that. Graham is one of the most influential British guitarist that most people have never heard of, and is one of the most educated, gracious, and humble as well. A true gentleman and a musicologist of the highest calibre. Maybe they can just call Graham as a witness, if they did the case would fall like a led balloon...

Thanks for the suggestions, I will. There's a video posted a couple of times in this thread that chronicles that progression going back to classical music compositions, I just don't have the time to peruse and find it at the moment. But it speaks to your point and that of several others who have given examples of similarities not only with this particular note sequence, but others as well, none of which drew law suits. Even Randy California himself didn't sue, but he thought he ought to have been given some form of recognition, which, with all due respect, I still disagree with given that sequence's repeated appearance in music history.

On 2/17/2016 at 11:19 PM, Balthazor said:

Indeed, but I think it's beyond a doubt that this lawsuit has similarly boosted the profile, and probably sales, of Spirit's material. Who'd even heard of Spirit before this lawsuit? The cynic in me thinks that's probably what's underlying this whole lawsuit in the first place. Whether Spirit wins or loses the case, they still win in the end.

When Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" was released, fans immediately pointed to Madonna's "Express Yourself" - LG's was FAR more similar to Madge's, so much so that Madonna incorporated "Born This Way" seamlessly into "Express Yourself" when she performed it live. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, she said, tongue firmly in cheek. She was above suing, even though this was blatant. 

On the opposite end of the scale, you have a few notes in sequence appearing throughout many compositions, easy to display, and even though Randy flattered himself with credit, sorry, these were around for a long time already, even if  'Taurus' was one of the places he heard it.

I'm not sure Spirit will get the attention they maybe think they will get, certainly not the coin. People tend to put down such attempts at money grabs. If 'Taurus' a rather monotonous tune gets more airplay, they should just send a fruit basket with a thank-you note. There's no comparison in it to the greatness that is "Stairway to Heaven". 

Here's the thing, too. Jimmy may have heard it from Randy and went, hey that's interesting, and gone off and worked on whatever his imagination dictated, or said to himself, hey that reminds me of... and went off composing. But lawsuits don't legislate what's in someone's heart; the fact remains that even if it sounds similar to a layman's ears, it's not nearly enough to sue for credit. More similar songs have lost in court. 

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On 17/02/2016 at 4:13 AM, IpMan said:

You want to know where Randy heard the progression from, well, the contemporary source which most are familiar with is Davey Graham's Cry Me A River.

Thanks for the heads up on the Davey Graham track - the similarity to STH and Taurus is uncanny: it makes a mockery of the entire case. Reminds me of the story when a journalist asked George Harrison about writing While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Harrison admonished the reporter for suggesting that he was in any way special for writing it. Harrison said that someone could written the exact same tune 400 years before (and was forgotten), but he simply happened to be lucky guy who wrote it during a period when it could be copyrighted and monetised.

I'm envisioning Davey and Randy looking down from above, both bemused at all this silly mortal material kerfuffle. Then Bonzo pops in and says "lads, what de fook is going on? Forget that earthly shite. Come on back to the jam. Bowie's about to sing for his heavenly supper..."

 

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Decades Later, 'Stairway to Heaven' Still in Dispute

Commentary by James G. Sammataro, Daily Business Review

February 19, 2016

Randy California always said so. A guitar virtuoso discovered by Jimi Hendrix at age 15, California plucked a distinct guitar line on his band's 1968 instrumental "Taurus" that reminds some of a guitar line from Led Zeppelin's 1971 smash hit "Stairway to Heaven."

Until his death in 1997, California refused to sue. He just wanted an artist's fair recognition: a liner credit, a thank you and a significant footnote in rock 'n' roll lore. Unconstrained by his quaint magnanimity, California's estate sued Led Zeppelin for infringement in 2014.

Can the estate climb this stairway to a judgment in its favor? It's a steep climb.

The estate's first step was to overcome a seemingly preposterous delay of 43 years before filing suit. They made it thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2014 "Raging Bull" decision in Petralla v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which eliminated the defense of laches (undue delay) from copyright cases and sanctioned a revolving three-year look back in copyright infringement actions.

The estate's next step is to demonstrate it has enough of a case to survive a summary judgment motion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has set forth an unforgiving substantial similarity test, but the estate appears capable of marshaling some favorable facts.

In 1968, a then-unknown Led Zeppelin opened for and shared the bill with California's band, Spirit — a pioneer of the psychedelic rock sound that incorporated delay and distortion effects to bend minds and alter moods. Zeppelin covered Spirit's tune "Fresh Garbage" during their sets.

In early interviews, Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page stated how Spirit's music moved him "on an emotional level." Further, Zeppelin, long accused of boosting classic blues songs, is no stranger to infringement actions, having settled at least six claims involving "Dazed & Confused," "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Whole Lotta Love" (a prejudicial fact unlikely to be presented to a jury but likely to embolden plaintiffs counsel).

Summary Judgment

Yet compelling evidence of access and copying will not be enough. To prevail, the estate must prove that any copying was quantitatively and qualitatively sufficient to support the legal conclusion that infringement has occurred. Inspired parrotting is one thing; misappropriated piracy is another. The latter requires more than a subjective "I know it when I hear it," but an objective examination of protected and copyrightable elements of expression.

The estate, likely aided by a musicologist's expert testimony, must identify specific and independently protectable notes, chord progressions, tone and structure that were pilfered. In order to survive summary judgment, the estate will likely need to prove more than merely a shared A-minor chord and a descending bass line, conspicuously present in earlier works including Zeppelin's "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" and George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps).

If the estate can survive summary judgment, it needs to convince the jury that protected expression was infringed. Given the human element, this is often easier than surviving summary judgment as evidenced by the 2015 "Blurred Lines" jury verdict.

There, Marvin Gaye's estate prevailed based on perceived similarities between Robin Thicke and Pharrell William's "Blurred Lines" and Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give it Up," despite never proving Gaye owed any of the borrowed elements: a shared baseline and the use of percussions, hand claps, falsetto signing and party sounds).

The final step is proving damages. Too bad for California's estate, the lookback is only three years: as of last count in 2008, "Stairway to Heaven" had earned $562 million. Nonetheless, real dollars could still be in play as "Stairway to Heaven" was included on a recent re-release album, a battle of the experts would be likely.

The estate's damages expert would testify for a generous share of those album sales on the rationale that Stairway's iconic status drove profits not merely for that single song but for the entire re-released album, Zeppelin merchandise and perhaps any gold that glittered down upon Zeppelin subsequent to Heart's stirring rendition of Stairway at the band's Kennedy Center Honors.

For counterarguments, Zeppelin's damages experts would advocate for modest damages based on a handful of musical notes constituting a small fraction of the song's popular virtues, which include Robert Plant's lyrics, the song's other layered tidbits and Zeppelin's enduring success.

Because this is the first meaningful copyright claim over a work thought to be legally dead until resuscitated by the "Raging Bull" decision, many in the music industry will be watching this case scheduled for a May trial, wondering if a new day will dawn for those who stand long.

James G. Sammataro is an entertainment lawyer, managing partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan's Miami office and the author of "Film and Multimedia and The Law."

http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202749946973/Decades-Later-Stairway-to-Heaven-Still-in-Dispute?slreturn=20160118180247

 

It doesn't matter whether Spirit's music moved Jimmy on an 'emotional level' or that Zep lifted songs from others in their tunes. These may be used to influence perceptions, but they don't have anything to do with this specific case concerning STH.

"The estate, likely aided by a musicologist's expert testimony, must identify specific and independently protectable notes, chord progressions, tone and structure that were pilfered. In order to survive summary judgment, the estate will likely need to prove more than merely a shared A-minor chord and a descending bass line, conspicuously present in earlier works including Zeppelin's "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" and George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps)."

And there's the rub. They have to prove that 'Taurus' note sequences are 'independently protectable' and this is specious given that so many other songs that preceded it have them, too (and Zep lawyers could argue, influenced the creation of 'Taurus' as well. Too bad they can't ask Randy California...). 

As TheGreatOne noted, the huge time span that has passed also works against the plaintiffs, as does the fact that Randy California never sued. Given these points, this suit should be exposed for exactly what it is - an attempt at a money grab based on weak evidence. A familiar tactic, but based on familiar notes not 'protectable' or exclusive to any of the songs that have them. That STH reached a pinnacle speaks to the ingenuity of what could be done with this note sequence. 

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