“Late in 1968, a then new band named Led Zeppelin began touring in the United States, opening for Spirit,” the suit states. “It was during this time that Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, grew familiar with ‘Taurus’ and the rest of Spirit’s catalog. Page stated in interviews that he found Spirit to be ‘very good’ and that the band’s performances struck him ‘on an emotional level.’ ”

One of the causes of action for the suit is listed as “Falsification of Rock N’ Roll History” and the typeface in the section headings of the filing resembles that used for Led Zeppelin album covers. According to claims in the suit, “Parts of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ instantly recognizable to the music fans across the world, sound almost identical to significant portions of ‘Taurus.’ ”
The estate is seeking court ordered damages and writing credit for California, born Randy Craig Wolfe. Part of the defense includes a printed interview conducted with California prior to his death from drowning in 1997. In the 1997 interview with Listener Magazine, the guitarist claims that some of the music from “Stairway to Heaven” was taken from his group’s song.

“Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment,” the lawsuit quotes the interview as saying. “It’s an exact … I’d say it was a rip-off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said, ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me.”

In a May interview with France’s Liberation newspaper, Page said of the claims “That’s ridiculous. I have no further comment on the subject.”

Hmmmmm, What say you?

  1. Name That Tune says:

    The opening notes to “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Happy Birthday” are somewhat similar. Go figure.

    Can I copyright the chords C, F, and G7? I could use a few billion!

  2. bobbo, 1970's Rock was/is the best says:

    Back when Napster was a going concern and I could load up my downloading list with 20 different titles and wake up the next morning with a total of 12 MB’s downloaded, I got into a conversation with one of the members of Spirit. I told him I really enjoyed his music. He was a music teacher and not very happy about it. At that time (20years ago?) he mentioned the band broke up over royalty issues and they wasted too much money on lawyers and corrupt music houses. I said that was all too often the way of things. Are you “in it” for the art, the experience, the money?==>always a mix of things.

    He wasn’t a happy camper. Hope he has firmed up his center as much as possible.

    While there is an infinity of note combinations, I would think the number of available lacceptable riffs is actually quite small. Small compared to infinity but wouldn’t tunes repeat almost of necessity? Change in beat, instrumentation and so forth?

    I thought of this just last night. A line has been with me ever since I can remember: “Did I dream you dreamed about me?” It is a line in the very famous Tim Buckleys “Song to the Siren” which is the end song of Lovely Bones on the tube last night. Even words have a less than infinite pleasing order.


    I thought case law established infringement fairly objectively: some number of identical notes in a row and its infringing. Maybe spirit is trying to push the envelop?

    The two songs sound similar but not the same to me. All music is inspired by all other music. Most lawsuits are BS.

    • McCullough says:

      I would agree with you but for the fact that Zep was the opening act for Spirit. A bit too close for comfort.

      BTW I was a Spirit fan as well.

      • bobbo, 1970's Rock was/is the best says:

        Well—what do you “think?”

        Are the songs SO SIMILAR as to constitute a theft of sorts?

        or only similar as all music is to one degree or another?

        I’ve alread SAID they are similar. Totally different emotions are called up by either. Spirit always more relaxed, Zep more in your face. I like both.

        By comparison, there was that lawsuit over George Harrisons song…whatever… and yep==its a band on copy. Beatles lost in court just as they should have even if it was totally unconscious of George’s part…. which I can believe totally.

        Here is Shiela Chandras version which I first heard so many years ago. Still excellent. Mortal coils is good too. Other versions I have heard, including Robert Plant–not so much.


        • bobbo, 1970's Rock was/is the best says:

          Speaking of Zep==there is a tribute band called Dred Zep that sings all their songs with a reggae beat with a lead singer impersonating Elvis. Its GREAT stuff.

          Zep was aware of this total infringement and simply said they liked Dred’s music as well.

          Good to know not every rich person is a dick.

          • McCullough says:

            Dread Zeppelin is just a parody Zep cover band, not the same at all. But if I were asked in court if the opening melody was similar enough that it appears to have been copied, and knowing that they were influencing Zep musically, I would have to say yes, it was lifted.

            Would I vote to award the plaintiff a sum of money, no. Maybe Randy California, but not his estate.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

            Dread Zeppelin is just a parody Zep cover band, not the same at all. //// On the issue of INFRINGEMENT a parody band BY DEFINITION is total infringement and can be sued for any profits made. Dred Zep put out several albums. Probably not much profit as I caught them in a small club In Fresno about 3 times. $10 cover charge. …. Good tunes, good times.

            But if I were asked in court if the opening melody was similar enough that it appears to have been copied, and knowing that they were influencing Zep musically, I would have to say yes, it was lifted. /// Fair enough.

            Would I vote to award the plaintiff a sum of money, no. /// Why not? That is the whole point.

            Maybe Randy California, but not his estate. /// Most good men I know work hard not for themselves but for their families……… aka….. their estates.

            What do you have against Mrs California and kiddies?

          • McCullough says:

            Then I think it should have been contested by Randy California or his estate at the time. Too much time has passed.

            Now, it’s just seems like opportunism.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

            I agree. I googled another video on topic, some lawyer talking about Statute of Limitations and laches and it didn’t make any sense at all.

            Seems like he said you have 3 years to file a complaint once you know of the infringement, but then laches meant the case could go forward.

            ……..but that raises the point of how certain corps keep extending the life of the copyright. Another subject I’ve read about but don’t understand. Happy Birthday for instance.

            As you note, the actual creators of the art get nothing….. its all lawyers feeding off the rest of us.

            Tempus Fugit.

          • Tim says:

            Yes, bobbo. What they have twisted it into is that the injured party is only entitled to the past three years of damages {since the song is still exhibited today}

            I’m not supplying a link as I never realized the cost to the environment co2 emmision from a simple google query before…. Call me ‘lyin’ mike’, if it makes you feel any better.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

            Well Lyin’ MikeY–that doesn’t make any sense to me. Once a protection expires… its gone. Theres a wesite of old movies that are now in the public domain, only a few worth the watch given my modern sensibilities.

            The whole point of these intellectual property laws is to provide an incentive for original creators to make their creations known and used by the public thereby profiting the general public as well.

            …………….and it all has been corrupted by lack of common sense.

            Make a judgement, draw the line, thats it. The line was somewhere around 19 years but different IP have gotten exceptions over the years so that Disney still controls Mickey Mouse.

            Kinda cheeses me off.

  3. Nutjob says:

    I say, nothing but the WHOLE SONG should be allowed to be copyrighted – PERIOD!

    If you disagree then you need to stop making photocopies and stop scanning printed items into your computer (or wherever). And yet, it’s nearly impossible to find a library without a “copy machine”…

    Copyright infringement happens every second of every day when you include printed items. So just why music and video get an elevated status with regard to copyright laws is what’s so amazingly hypocritical. GET A CLUE!

    If I were a judge, I’d throw this case out and then fine the bastards for wasting public resources.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      One use for a copy machine in a library is basically to facilitate note taking. For instance, a patron copying the values in a table rather than writing them down. If copied material is going to appear in a report for school, the student needs to properly credit the source. Also, the report must not be sold for commercial purposes or published without getting permission from the copyright holder.
      The copy machines in my university library all had copyright warning notices attached to the machines’ side. The library legally obtained the original material which is all under copyright. Also, the library isn’t trying to sell the books. The copying machine isn’t located in a bookstore.
      If someone was to make a copy of a copywritten recording (or printed material), that isn’t breaking a copyright law. It’s when that copy is distributed; i.e., something other than “private, non-commercial use” that a problem arises.

      The problem with Led Zeppelin and Spirit isn’t in the unlicensed use of the earlier Spirit recording. It’s how the notes of the acoustic guitar part in Spirit’s song are used in much of Led Zeppelin’s song.

  4. Uncle Miltie says:

    What about comedians and jokes?

    It’s hard to remember whether you’ve just recalled a joke someone else “wrote” or synthesized a “new” one based on the current situation.

    Are there any truly new jokes?

  5. Enemy_of_the_State says:

    Look beneath your lid some morning
    See those things you didn’t quite consume
    The world’s a can for your fresh garbage.

  6. Tim says:

    It’s a derivative work. Besides the original being just a little bit ‘unpolished’, it lacks the satanic backmasking —


  7. deegee says:

    What a load of BS.

    I have been a well studied multi-instrument musician since the 70’s; I owned and operated a good sized professional 96-channel automated studio for over a decade through the 90’s-early2k’s (demos, documentary and stage play soundtracks, albums, etc. for many many clients).

    Well, even with music training, most waltzes sound familiar, most rap songs sound familiar, most hip-hop songs sound familiar, etc. But I do know enough about actual music that I can tell when two compositions vary from each other.

    The attorney in the video stated that the test is “if an ordinary person thinks these songs sound familiar”…

    It’s like an auto mechanic commenting on theoretical physics: “it all sounds the same to me”.

    This is what happens when lawyers and “ordinary persons” who know nothing about music theory and composition get involved.
    If this lawsuit succeeds, the precendent will cripple and ruin the music industry.

    • Tim says:

      “”It’s like an auto mechanic commenting on theoretical physics: “it all sounds the same to me”.

      Clearly, you’ve never posed the topic to an actual auto mechanic. Usually, the response is “Whaa? hehe… back to work. you find that leak yet?”

      • Cha-Ching says:

        Regardless of the noise your car makes, it all sounds like money to the mechanic.

        “Uh, you need a new transmission.”

        • Tim says:

          In actuality, *some* mechanics/autobody persons are very receptive… good at chess, also.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      “But I do know enough about actual music that I can tell when two compositions vary from each other.”

      The bone of contention is the first few bars of the acoustic guitar part from “Taurus” slightly altered in “Stairway to Heaven” repeated over and over – not comparisons of the entire compositions. The issue may hinge on what constitutes a substantial part of “Stairway to Heaven.”

      • deegee says:

        Still spouting BS.

        If using the same key, and a similar (but not the exactly same) root progression, determines infringement, then EVERY song that is in the same key and uses a bass line of 1:5 or 1:3:5: or 1:5:7 etc. are infringements.

      • deegee says:

        And in what world does “slightly altered” equal “the same”.
        EVERY musician uses the theory they learned and the experience they gained while playing to compose similar styles of music within their preferred genre.

        Infringement means that you copied it verbatim or that it sounds the same.

        If all that infringement requires is “similar”, then as I stated previously every waltz, every rap song, every hip-hop song, etc. would be infringements since they can easily be shown as a “slightly altered” version of another similar song in the same genre.
        Heck, lots of waltzes are virtually identical musically.

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

          Without going for the exact words: If infringement were the exact notes, then the issue could be established by the experts of which you are one.

          But its not.

          As you say, and then ignore, its how “similar” it is TO THE AVERAGE PERSON. You know: like any other consumer protection law–the average dumbshit. The kind that buys records, tapes, cds, then downloads streaming versions for free.

          So… why is there not a torrent of litigation as you suppose? Because only the most succe$$ful music is worth suing. And being most succe$$ful is even more rare than infringement however you might define it.

          See what it is????????????


          Same as it always is. Kinda interesting private musing there, money is like water. It seeks the lowest level, ie-lawyers, but its stickier than water leaving more behind at each level that sticks its hand into the pie.

          (Link to the Beatles)

          • deegee says:

            I realize that the lawsuit is nothing more than a money-grab. I stated that in my original post in this particular thread.

            The entire problem with allowing these types of frivolous lawsuits to even be considered is that it opens up a huge can of worms regarding copyright and litigation. It will literally kill the music industry, followed by many other industries, especially the arts.

            What is next, suing another painter because he uses brush strokes that look similar to mine?

            The problem we have with using this “measurement of law”, is that music is divided into various genres, and the division is based on similar or constant musical themes, so OF COURSE most compositions within each genre may have certain areas of structure that sound similar.
            It is the fact that specific songs “sound similar to each other” that we put them into their specific genres.

            What shall we do if “the average person” thinks that ALL reggae music sounds the same, ALL rap music sounds the same, etc.
            This is the problem with having any laws rely on “the average person”, because quite frankly “the average person” is a schmuck.

          • deegee says:

            Anyway… I digress. I feel that I have made my opinion clear fwiw. No need for my continual ranting. 😉

          • deegee says:

            A decent comparison video on youtube by some chap, although a bit lengthy at 10 mins:


            I guess we will see what the courts decide…

          • Tim says:

            Thx, deegee. Btw, either that guy lives under high tension lines or his Marshall’s about to pop a couple electrolytics.


  8. Greg Allen says:

    Listening to the two, I vote “not stolen.” Not similar enough.

  9. B. Dog says:

    The whole who owns what thing is confusing. If a dude gives an air guitar performance in public and gets, you know, something outa it, should he share?

  10. John E Quantum says:

    Where would rap and hip hop be today without “sampling”. Lots of lawyers kids are getting their education paid for thanks to the legal battles waged over various artist use of other artists work.
    Also, the artists often claim that it wasn’t a ripoff, it was an homage.

    • milli vanilli says:

      Where would rap and hip hop be today without “sampling”. Lots of lawyers kids are getting their education paid for thanks to the legal battles waged over various artist use of other artists work.
      Also, the artists often claim that it wasn’t a ripoff, it was an homage.

  11. Ah_Yea says:


    Led Zeppelin plagiarized nearly every song they played!

    They brazenly stole right and left!

    This really blew up on them when they were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame without due vetting.

  12. Jeb Bush says:

    As my overly litigious extended family does not have two thoughts to bang together, I told them this was really my song I wrote whilst dad was doing missile deals with the komanie whilst smoking bong hits outta Meese’s skull {I also told them I was staging for a run in 2016, just to keep the beer-bucks flowing}


    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      Nice subtle tangent. I’ve always like it regarding “causation” but it applies to infringement just as well.



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