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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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September 07, 1968 - The band fulfills some old Yardbirds dates in Scandanavia
September xx, 1969 - Jimmy Page is reported saying the second album will be harder than the first
September 19, 1970 - Led Zeppelin gross over $100,000 for two performances at Madison Square Gardens on the same day
September xx, 1971 - Jimmy Page is furious over a live Yardbirds release. It was forced off the shelves
September xx, 1971 - The band vacations in Hawaii
September xx, 1972 - Discussions to play various countries ends with a decision to play Japan again
September xx, 1973 - Jimmy Page considers a live release of material before releasing a new album
September 14, 1974 - Led Zeppelin and CSN&Y jam at an after party
September xx, 1975 - Jimmy meets up with Robert in Malibu, where he is staying on a tax exile
September 12, 1976 - Page and Bonham return to Switzerland and record a drum piece title Bonzo’s Montreux
September 08, 1977 - Page takes to the stage with other well knowns at a WEA records sales conference
September 15, 1978 - Zep road manager Richard Cole and Bad Company’s Simon Kirke get married in a double ceremony
September 17, 1979 - Promoter Fred Bannister forced into liquidation over Knebworth Sales with Led Zeppelin
September 18, 1980 - Jimmy reviews a new stage set up and technical details for the Eighties Part One tour at Swan Song offices
September 25, 1980 - John Bonham is found dead in Jimmy Page’s Windsor mansion by sound technician Benji Le Fevre
September 12, 2007 - It was announced at a press conference by Harvey Goldsmith that the remaining members of Led Zeppelin would reunite with Jason Bonham on drums.
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