Led Zeppelin have lost the first round of the legal battle over classic track Stairway To Heaven.
It was raised in May by Mark Andes, bassist of Spirit, who claims the opening acoustic guitar phrase was lifted from their track Taurus. He believes guitarist Jimmy Page heard it while the bands toured together in 1968, three years before Stairway was recorded. But Page has dismissed the suggestion as “ridiculous.”
Andes and the family of late guitarist Randy California launched their legal action in Pennsylvania. Led Zep’s lawyers arguing that the state’s Eastern District Court had no right to judge the case, because “the defendants are British citizens residing in England, own no property in Pennsylvania, and have no contacts with Pennsylvania.”
But Judge Juan Sanchez has decided the case can go ahead after Andes’ representatives said: “Defendants make millions of dollars from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by directly targeting this district for the exploitation of Stairway To Heaven through CD sales, digital downloading, radio and television play, advertising, marketing, concert performances, other performances, licensing, and otherwise targeting resident individuals and businesses.”
Sanchez hasn’t explained his decision, and Led Zep’s lawyers can attempt to have it reversed before the trial proceeds.
California, who died in 1997, once said of Stairway: “I’d say it was a rip-off. The guys made millions of bucks on it and never said, ‘Thank you’ – never said, ‘Can we pay you some money?’ It’s a sore point with me.”
Led Zep are midway through their remaster release series, while Page has told Classic Rock he’s preparing to return to action with new music.