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Writers of the classic song 'Stairway to Heaven' sued

kenny

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The lawsuit claims Led Zeppelin stole enough of another song that the original writer is entitled to writing credit ... oh, and a ton of money.

Listen to the other song here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFHLO_2_THg

Fast forward to 0:44.

To me 11 seconds do sound very similar, but the piece is 2:39.
The similarities I hear in those 11 seconds:
1. It's also on a guitar that's 6-string and steel string
2. It's also in the key of A minor
3. It has the same descending bass line
4. The guitar picking pattern and rhythm are nearly identical
5. The tempo is the same
6. Most of the chords are the same

Those 11 seconds, however, lack the melody that is higher in pitch.

Personally, I'm surprised a judge ruled this is enough for a trial to proceed, but I don't know the law about these things.

Story: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36022876

Led Zeppelin founders Robert Plant and Jimmy Page must face trial in a copyright row over the song Stairway to Heaven, a US court has ruled.
A Los Angeles district judge said there were enough similarities between the song and an instrumental by the band Spirit to let a jury decide.
The trial has been scheduled for 10 May.
Stairway to Heaven, released in 1971, is widely seen as one of the greatest rock compositions of all time.
The copyright infringement action has been brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who played on the same bill as Led Zeppelin in the 1960s, and claims he should be given a writing credit on the track.
Led Zeppelin guitarist Page and lead singer Plant are reputed to have written Stairway to Heaven in a remote cottage in Wales.
However, Mr Skidmore has suggested the song came about after the band heard Spirit perform the instrumental Taurus while the bands toured together in 1968 and 1969.
US district judge Gary Klausner said a jury could find "substantial" similarity between the first two minutes of Stairway and Taurus.
"While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend this core structure," Judge Klausner ruled.
"What remains is a subjective assessment of the 'concept and feel' of two works... a task no more suitable for a judge than for a jury."
He also said the trustee can get only 50% of any damages awarded, citing a 1967 contract Wolfe signed.
 

jordyonbass

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If that's the case then Budgie should have sued the Red Hot Chilli Peppers years ago.

There's only so many ways that you can compose parts and sometimes parts between different composers may sound similar. I know that I have written parts where my bandmates have said 'hey that sounds like *artist* song'
Sometimes the part gets scrapped, sometimes it stays. Back then there wasn't Spotify or youtube to check so parts would have stayed more often.
 

december-fire

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I'm confused. However, there may be logical answers to my questions.

Why now? Stairway to Heaven was released in 1971 - 45 years ago.

Did the late Randy Wolfe initiate this lawsuit prior to his passing? If not, why not and why would a trustee be taking such action.

What was contained in the 1967 contract signed by Wolfe? The contract apparently limits any damages that might be awarded, so what does it state. Apparently Mr. Wolfe indicated his agreement with the contract terms by signing the contract.

I know nothing about copyright infringement and definitely have no musical talent. But I sometimes wonder if songwriters these days need research teams to determine if a new song might somehow, some day be deemed 'too similar' to one of the billions of pieces of music produced over the years.

That said, there should be legal recourse for legitimate cases, but is it too easy to sue and get some financial reward these days?
 

kenny

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december-fire|1460475050|4018289 said:
Why now? Stairway to Heaven was released in 1971 - 45 years ago.
I'd guess, money.

Perhaps the writer from Spirit understood that no music is truly original, or wasn't after money, or laws were different.
Perhaps people are more litigious now than in the past.
Perhaps a lawyer heard the Spirit song, saw dollar signs, and made some phone calls.
 

kmarla

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I'm no music expert at all, but I just listened to the YouTube link and I definitely hear similarities in at least four different areas. Not identical but pretty close to my untrained ear. They start at 44 sec, 58 sec, 137 sec and 151 sec. I immediately thought of Stairway to Heaven.
 

VRBeauty

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At about 1:48 there's a definite similarity with the guitar line that forms the backbone to Stairway to Heaven. However, "Stairway to Heaven" is so much more than that opening line. It also has those incredible enigmatic lyrics, and the progression of lyrics and instrumentals to that powerful ending. If that one riff were enough to make the song, well, we'd all be a bit more familiar with the Spirit song, wouldn't we?

But also agree that it's valid to ask why Spirit waited this long to sue. It's one thing to get a share of royalties going forward - anyone getting royalties from STO would just adjust their expectations and budgets accordingly. But to sue so long after the fact, Spirit is both taking advantage of all the marketing and momentum that's built over these past four or so decades, and potentially causing serious financial harm to LZ et al.

BTW I remember STH best from my senior prom! Played by some local band, of course, not LZ! It was a very difficult song to dance to...
 

Dancing Fire

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This is the only song that I like from Led Zeppelin.
 

jordyonbass

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