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Update on the Led Zeppelin/Taurus "Stairway To Heaven" lawsuit



What could Jimmy Page and Justin Timberlake possibly have in common?

Her name is Helene Freeman, an entertainment lawyer who litigated a series of victories for Timberlake’s former boy band, NSYNC, and is now defending Page and fellow members of Led Zeppelin in a dispute over Stairway to Heaven‘s authorship. As we’ve reported, Led Zeppelin faces a copyright infringement suit that alleges parts of the 1971 hit were filched from an obscure song by the band Spirit.

By hiring Freeman, a partner at New York law firm Phillips Nizer, Led Zeppelin has gone for an industry specialist who has also done work for singer Diana Ross and corporate clients that include record distributors and advertising agencies. In NSYNC cases from the late 1990s and 2000s, Freeman secured the band’s ability to leave its old record label and won dismissal of a copyright suit over pictures on concert merchandise, according to her firm bio. She declined to comment for this story.

In the Zeppelin case, the crux of the claim is that, to many ears, the opening notes of Stairway to Heaven sound a lot like Taurus, an instrumental piece by the late Spirit guitarist Randy California, released on his band’s debut album in 1968. At the end of that year and through 1969, Spirit and Led Zeppelin shared the bill at several concerts. Randy California’s trust filed the complaint on May 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, citing as a cause for action the “Falsification of Rock N’ Roll History.”

Lawyers for Led Zeppelin and its record company, Warner Music, have until Sept. 22 to respond to the suit. (Led Zeppelin is also represented in the Philadelphia court by local counsel Michael Eidel of the firm Fox Rothschild.) A spokesman for the band and Warner Music has repeatedly declined to comment on the dispute. Page, speaking to France’s Liberation newspaper in May, called the infringement claim “ridiculous.”

The lawsuit comes just as Led Zeppelin prepares to cash in anew on the epic hit. On Oct. 28, it plans to re-issue the untitled album that contains Stairway to Heaven, known as Led Zeppelin IV. According to a Warner Music news release, the deluxe edition will contain a “fabled, alternate version” of Stairway that “lets fans hear one of the most revered songs of all time as they have never heard it before.”

by Vernon Silver

From: BloombergBusinessweek
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

May 31, 1948 - John Henry Bonham was born at Redditch, Worchestershire
May xx, 1969 - The band’s debut album enters the US Top 10
May xx, 1969 - Recording sessions for Led Zeppelin II begin
May xx, 1970 - The band works on new material at Bron-Y-Aur
May 03, 1971 - Richard Cole jams on Whole Lotta Love playing congas
May xx, 1972 - Houses Of The Holy recording sessions on location at Stargroves and Olympic studios
May 27, 1972 - Warm-up gigs kick off in Holland for an upcoming American tour
May 04, 1973 - Led Zeppelin gross nearly $250,000 for their performance in Atlanta, GA
May 05, 1973 - 56,800 attend the second show of the 1973 US tour at Tampa. This sets a record for the largest attendance for a one-act performance, previously held by the Beatlesfor their Shea Stadium show in 1965
May 10, 1974 - Swan Song Records is officially launched
May 11, 1974 - Led Zeppelin attend an Elvis concert and are thrilled when Elvis announces that Led Zeppelin is in the building
May 10, 1975 - Showco ships their PA system and video screens for the Earls Court shows from Dallas to London
May 23, 1976 - Page and Plant join Bad Company onstage at the LA Forum
May 21, 1977 - The Houston Summit claims $500,000 in damages to their venue caused by rowdy fans
May xx, 1978 - The band reunite at Clearwater Castle to rehearse
May 22, 1979 - It is officially announce that Led Zeppelin will headline at the Knebworth Festival in August
May 15, 1980 - After many revisions the European tour dates are finalized and the band is scheduled to open in Germany
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