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The man suing members of Led Zeppelin over a copyright claim to “Stairway to Heaven” is willing to settle his lawsuit for just $1, according to Bloomberg.
There’s a catch, though. The plaintiff is also seeking a writing credit on the song for Randy California, whose own song he claims was plagiarized by Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page for “Stairway to Heaven.”
The potential payout could be huge. “Stairway to Heaven” is estimated to be worth more than $560 million.
Both Page and Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who wrote the song’s lyrics, are named in the lawsuit. The suit was brought on behalf of Michael Skidmore, who is administrator of California’s estate. California, who’s real name is Randy Wolfe, died in 1997.
California believed Page had plagiarized his 1966 composition “Taurus” in the opening finger-picked acoustic guitar passage of “Stairway to Heaven,” though he never sought a settlement. “Taurus” appeared on the 1968 debut album from his group Spirit. Both Spirit and Led Zeppelin performed on the same bill in the late Sixties, and Skidmore claims Page had asked California to teach him the chords to the song.
Page says he never heard the song during the time the two band’s performed together and had not listened to the song until 2014, when it was played for him in connection with the lawsuit. He contends that the musical structure employed by both songs is a common convention, and Zeppelin’s defense have claimed that the song’s “chord progressions were so clichéd that they did not deserve copyright protection.”
If that fails, the defense will argue that California waived his claim in 1991 when he was asked about the similarity during an interview. “If they wanted to use [‘Taurus’] that’s fine,” California said at the time. “I’ll let them have the beginning of ‘Taurus’ for their song without a lawsuit.”
If the deal for a co-writing credit were to go through, Page and Plant would share future income on the song, which could net California’s estate millions of dollars. In 2008, Page and Plant made a deal with Warner/Chappell Music that gives them $60 million over 10 years for the right to exploit “Stairway to Heaven” and other songs. Skidmore’s lawyer, Francis Alexander Malofiy, says that at least two-thirds of that—$40 million—should be allocated to the period of copyright infringement.
The trial is scheduled for May 10 in Los Angeles. Attorneys for Page and Plant have said their clients probably will not be attending the trial but will submit video depositions to be shown to the jury.
In the video below, TJR of TJRMusic.com demonstrates explores the similarities and differences between “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus.”