‘Stairway to Heaven’ Fight Headed to 9th Circuit

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — The former British rock journalist who accused Led Zeppelin of plagiarizing the iconic opening guitar riff in “Stairway to Heaven” has filed an appeal, a little over a month after a jury threw out his claims.
     At the end of a six-day trial in June, a jury found that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant did not lift the “Stairway to Heaven” introduction from “Taurus,” by the LA-progressive rockers Spirit.
     Michael Skidmore had brought the claims on behalf of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust more than four decades after “Stairway to Heaven” appeared on Led Zeppelin’s untitled 1971 album, better known as “Led Zeppelin IV.”
     Skidmore filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit over the weekend, on July 23.
     “Taurus” was written by Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who performed under the nickname Randy California. Wolfe never took legal action against Led Zeppelin in his lifetime, though he suggested in a 1996 interview that he believed that the band had copied his work.
     “I’d say it was a rip-off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said, ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me,” California told Listener magazine in the 1990s.
     But while a federal jury of four men and four women found that Page and Plant had heard “Taurus” before they created “Stairway to Heaven” and that Skidmore had a valid copyright in “Taurus,” the jurors decided that Skidmore failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that original elements of the song were “extrinsically” similar.
     Skidmore claimed the band’s 87-song catalog, including “Stairway to Heaven,” earned tens of millions of dollars during a statutory period that began in the summer of 2011, and that the song had netted Page and Plant millions.
     But Page and Plant said that gross revenues from “Stairway to Heaven” were in the hundreds of thousands, rather than millions.
     The surviving Led Zeppelin members and bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones testified that they were not familiar with “Taurus,” and did not recall playing with Spirit after Led Zeppelin featured in the same line-up as the band at early U.S. shows.
     Led Zeppelin’s attorneys are seeking $800,000.
     Neither Skidmore’s attorney Francis Malofiy nor Page and Plant’s attorney Peter Anderson immediately responded to requests for comment.

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