Led Zeppelin's 1971 classic "Stairway to Heaven" is taking them straight to court. A U.S. judge ruled Friday that the song has "substantial" enough similarities to the instrumental piece "Taurus," written by the band Spirit in 1967, that a jury should decide whether Led Zeppelin's members are liable for copyright infringement.
"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," U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California wrote in the opinion. "For example, the descending bass line in both 'Taurus' and 'Stairway to Heaven' appears at the beginning of both songs, arguably the most recognizable and important segments. Additionally, the descending bass line is played at the same pitch, repeated twice, and separated by a short bridge in both songs."
The lawsuit was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Spirit's late guitarist Randy Wolfe, who alleges that the band lifted Spirit's piece while the bands were touring together in 1968 and 1969 and never gave Wolfe credit.
Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page are scheduled to appear in court May 10.