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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

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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