Judge: It's Possible Part of 'Stairway to Heaven' Is Stolen
A May trial will decide whether Led Zeppelin copied notes from Spirit
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 12, 2016 5:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – A trial is needed to determine if Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" copies its opening notes from a song performed by the rock band Spirit, a federal judge has ruled. US District Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled Friday that lawyers for the trustee of late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe had shown enough evidence to support a case that "Stairway to Heaven" copies music from the Spirit song "Taurus." "Taurus" was written by Wolfe in either 1966 or 1967, years before Led Zeppelin released "Stairway to Heaven" in 1971. Klausner wrote that while the songs have some differences, lawyers for Wolfe's trustee may be able to prove they are substantially similar, reports the AP.

Led Zeppelin and Spirit performed at some concerts and festivals around the same time, but not on the same stage. Klausner wrote that the evidence presented so far represented a circumstantial case that Led Zeppelin may have heard "Taurus" performed before "Stairway to Heaven" was created. Experts hired by Led Zeppelin contend both songs use notes that have been used in music for centuries. The attorney for Wolfe's trustee, Michael Skidmore, praised the ruling, saying it brings his client one step closer to getting Wolfe credit for helping create one of the most recognizable song introductions in rock history. Skidmore was able to overcome statutes of limitations because "Stairway to Heaven" was remastered and re-released in 2014. A jury trial is set for May 10 in Los Angeles. (Click for 30 songs that are probably rip-offs.)