Led Zeppelin Members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Face 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Claim

Led Zeppelin 1970
Three of the four members of Led Zeppelin in Embankment Gardens, London, 1970. From left to right: singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and drummer John Bonham. Page and Plant are to face a jury over claims they stole the opening chord progressions of their classic song 'Stairway to Heaven.' Ian Showell/Getty

Led Zeppelin stars Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are to face a jury over claims they stole the opening chord progressions of their classic song "Stairway to Heaven."

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner said the 1971 track and an instrumental work called "Taurus," performed by the band Spirit in 1967, had "substantial" similarities.

His decision means that Led Zeppelin guitarist Page and singer Plant, who are credited with co-writing "Stairway to Heaven," will appear in a Los Angeles court on May 10 accused of copyright infringement.

The judge said: "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.

"What remains is a subjective assessment of the 'concept and feel' of two works... a task no more suitable for a judge than for a jury."

The lawsuit was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Randy Wolfe—aka Randy California—who was Spirit's guitarist and composer of "Taurus."

Mr Skidmore says the two bands toured together in 1968 and 1969 and this may have been when Page was inspired to write "Stairway to Heaven."

According to Mr Skidmore's lawsuit, Wolfe had complained about the similarity between the two songs not long before he drowned in 1997 while attempting to rescue his son.

But Plant and Page say that Wolfe was a songwriter for hire and, therefore, had no claim to copyright. They also say that the chord progressions in "Stairway to Heaven" were too well-known for such protection.

"Stairway to Heaven" has earned Led Zeppelin hundreds of millions of pounds and is one of the most successful rock songs of all time.

But the British rockers often drew inspiration from other groups and some of these have resulted in legal challenges. As a result, the band has already been forced to alter the credits and pay portions of their royalties for songs such as "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Whole Lotta Love."