The legal rollercoaster of the “Stairway to Heaven” case — which pits Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, writers of the Led Zeppelin anthem, against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by Spirit — resumes in a San Francisco 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday morning.
The lawsuit, initiated by controversial Philadelphia lawyer Francis Malofiy, takes place after a series of lawsuits in which juries have ruled against superstar songwriters, ranging from the Marvin Gaye estate’s 2015 $5.3 million victory over “Blurred Lines” co-writers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to last summer’s $2.78 million decision against Katy Perry and co-writers of the song “Dark Horse.”
This latest incarnation of the “Stairway” lawsuit is considered so pivotal that the judge in a case regarding similarities between Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On” and Ed Sheeran’s 2014 smash “Thinking Out Loud” is waiting to see what happens in the Led Zeppelin case before moving forward.
“Taurus,” an instrumental written by Spirit guitarist Randy California — whose real name was Randy Wolfe, and passed away in 1997 — was originally released in 1968, three years before “Stairway.” While similarities between the two songs have long been noted, California declined to pursue legal action during his lifetime.
In May of 2014, Michael Skidmore, the trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, sued Led Zeppelin, arguing that “Stairway to Heaven” copied elements of Wolfe’s composition. A jury ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin in 2016, finding that the two songs were not substantially similar.
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