Breaking: Led Zeppelin Is About to Win Its ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Case…

Giovanni Battista Granata, the real author of 'Stairway to Heaven'
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Giovanni Battista Granata, the real author of 'Stairway to Heaven'
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Giovanni Battista Granata, the real author of ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Against near-certain defeat, Led Zeppelin is being offered a desperate, last-minute deal.

Last week, a commenter on Digital Music News single-handedly dismantled a massive copyright infringement case against Led Zeppelin involving ‘Stairway to Heaven’.  Now, attorneys bringing the case against Zeppelin appear to be desperately trying to work out a deal.

The case against Zeppelin, raised by the band Spirit, accused the legendary group of stealing the pivotal guitar progression in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and minting millions off of the song’s popularity.  Unfortunately for Spirit, it turns out that progression is actually in the public domain, appearing as early as 1630 in an Italian baroque composition for stringed instruments.

That will undoubtedly become a critical part of Zeppelin’s defense early next month, with jury members almost certain to dump the case after hearing the soft ‘Stairway to Heaven’ melody in a 17th century pre-Classical work.  In fact, sources to Digital Music News have confirmed that Zeppelin attorneys are almost certainly going to play recordings of the centuries-old composition (and perhaps others) in what appears to be a slam-dunk case.

Against that near-certain defeat, Spirit’s legal team is desperately trying to secure a settlement before a jury has a chance to deliberate.  The apparent deal: an offer of a $1 fine in exchange for a juicy writing credit.  “Lawyers suing members of rock supergroup Led Zeppelin say their client is willing to settle a lawsuit over the band’s most famous song — a claim potentially worth millions of dollars — for just $1,” Vernon Silver of Bloomberg just shared.

Spirit’s attorney, Francis Alexander Malofiy, confirmed that information, telling Bloomberg, “It’s always been about credit where credit is due.”  But here’s the kicker: that little ‘credit’ would apparently amount to $40 million, based on a quick read of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s $60 million, ten-year accord with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing (and Bloomberg’s foggy calculations).

The obvious elephant in the courtroom is that the real writing ‘credit’ should probably go to Giovanni Battista Granata, the 17th century Italian composer that penned this piece (listen around 0:32 for the kicker):

Lawyers watching the case have noted that Zeppelin would be extremely foolish to accept the latest deal, especially given the fresh evidence that has come to light.

Malofiy, who specifically represents the estate of Spirit singer Randy California, also faces another challenge.  Aside from ‘Stairway to Heaven’ basically existing for nearly 400 years, another piece with exactly same riff also surfaced from the late 1950s.  That track, performed by Davey Graham in the late 1950s, could have easily been the inspiration for ‘Stairway’.

21 Responses

  1. mike drop

    the existence of this particular chord progression has been known and bandied about for a looooooong time, despite who ever broached it the other day . Hmm maybe some one can sue some one for claiming to have to dirt on it.

    PS , Love Spirit, but Taurus SUCKS and the best defense against a theft is the fact that Taurus is wholly forgettable ,so like who could carry it away ?

    meanwhile STH is awesome

  2. Buck Sexton

    Page would be foolish not to counter sue for this horrific embarrassment. This kind of “copyright” s#@! needs to be stomped into the ground when it rears it’s ugly head.
    If it’s not obviously exactly the same, they should not be able to sue.
    People are going to be afraid to write music

    • Buck Sexton

      By the way, that classical piece does not even use the same progression.
      I hope it helps Pager it court, but only the first two chords are the same.
      They could have gone with “Summer Rain” from Johnny Rivers

      • Joe Bloe

        Or “A Taste Of Honey” sung by Julie London in the 60’s along with a million others, like say. THE BEATLES

    • jane doe

      hahah embarrassment? they’ve embarrassed themselves by trying to pass other artists songs as their own and not giving credit to where credit is due. Sure, this song particularly by Spirit might not have been a big deal but this is one of many cases that has come up because they have stolen other bands songs. They might have saved their asses here but just take a look at all the other songs they’ve clearly ripped off even in lyrics lol I love LZ but that doesnt mean i going to ignore their history lol

      • Rob

        Not to excuse LZ, but they were hardly the only band to “borrow” old blues tunes and rework them for their own purposes without giving due songwriting credit. Just sayin’.

      • Cathie

        There history is that Britain did not have the Blues. America brought that to Britain. Robert is had huge interest in Southern Blues and Delta Blues. Blues where new! Damn right the band played those songs! But you cannot tell me that ; Achilles Last Stand, Rover, Sick Again, Thank You, All of my Love and 100’s more songs are replicates of any song. My I putt. Have a great day

  3. Dave O

    Yes, it was a very common progression, so was pretty sure that there would be LOTs of prior examples of it. Just another case of greedy lawyers trying to convince people to sue … win or lose, the lawyers always get paid … :/

  4. Tim Wood

    So much has changed in the music business over the decades, but one: Putrid people still seem to dominate it. I’m lucky I didn’t have the network to help my startup go, and stayed with the tech industry. We have a lot fewer sociopaths making decisions, and people pay us big when we deliver.

  5. Dre

    The Baroque music piece has nothing to do with Starway to Heaven, other than two chords. As far as for The Spirit song , Led Zeppelin not only uses most of the chord progression but also the main “riff” and the intro flute melody – on the top of that what makes it clear that it is a ripoff case, is the arrangement. Same orchestral parts with same intro lenght. Any respectful court would at least give Spirit some sort of credit.

  6. Dan

    The article says this case was “raised by the band Spirit.” That’s not true – it was brought by the estate of Randy Wolfe (AKA Randy California) over a decade after his death. Randy himself was well aware of the similarity between the two songs, but never took any legal action.

  7. Application X

    It’s very sad that as the CEO and controlling entity of my intellectual property I have to be in this disposition of character ; but at the end of the day I don’t give a fuck about how I bring my money back to the house. You don’t have any honor or morals and I am a psychotic animal so somewhere in the middle we should be able to find common ground and get the motherfucking checks cut !

  8. T.C.

    This whole case is a joke. California died years ago… why didn’t he sue Zeppelin while he was alive? Looks like a bunch of greedy family members/relatives looking to cash in on someone else’s fortune. The chord progression has nothing to do with it…if that was the case, every rock & blues musician from the past 50 odd years would’ve been suing each other. When you talk about ‘copying’ a piece of music, it’s the arrangement/ placement of the notes that matter. They have to be the exact same; & they’re not, because Page arpeggiated the chords differently than California did on ‘Taurus.’ Case closed. I can’t believe that even the novice judge, who probably has no technical music expertise, didn’t pick that up & throw the case out through the in door.