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Amidst Plagiarism Allegations, is Led Zeppelin’s Legacy Tainted?

Led Zeppelin: Photo by: By Heinrich Klaffs [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, Led Zeppelin’s bacon may have been saved them in a lawsuit concerning their iconic single “Stairway to Heaven.” A commentator for the website Digital Music News discovered a song containing a similar melody as the disputed one of the epic Led Zeppelin hit single dating back to the 1600s. The discovery might save Zeppelin a bundle of cash from the lawsuit brought against them by the trustee of of the estate of Randy Wolfe who composed the song “Taurus,” which allegedly “Stairway to Heaven” ripped off. Michael Skidmore, the trustee for Wolfe’s estate,  is pressing forward with the lawsuit, even though the song’s author, the late Wolfe, who passed in 1997, never did.

However, the lawsuit dredged up some ugly details about  the band’s creative process or lack thereof. In an article appearing on the website Digital Music News, the site obtained court papers (from previous depositions) in which Jimmy Page and Robert Plant openly admitted plagiarizing. According to Digital Music News, “The litigants in the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ case are using the quotes to demonstrate that Led Zeppelin had a repeated history of content infringement and blatant plagiarism, while lightly masking those plagiarisms to make copyright claims more difficult.”

With the case moving forward, Skidmore’s motivation for pressing the claim has been called into question since its author, Randy Wolfe never filed a lawsuit against the band. Skidmore’s attorney,  Francis Alexander Malofiy, begs to differ. This from Rolling Stone online, “Wolfe tried for much of his life to receive credit or compensation for “Stairway to Heaven,” one of the most recognizable and lucrative songs in rock history.” The article goes on further to say, “Skidmore filed court documents showing Wolfe spoke with friend Tracy Longo and Spirit bandmate David Waterbury about filing suit. “You have to understand something — his whole life, he’s berated by fans and press. What are you going to do? Are you going to sue?” Malofiy says. “He got to the point where he didn’t want to air his laundry out in public, especially when there was nothing he could do.”‘

The pathway to file suit against Led Zeppelin was forged in a 2014 Supreme Court ruling when the court ruled that the daughter of Raging Bull author Frank Petrella could sue to retrieve rights to the her father’s work, within three years, after a new Blu-ray edition of the movie was released. Jimmy Page and the band had just recently released a remastered version of the album “Stairway” appears on in 2014, essentially, as Rolling Stone notes, renewing the three year period.

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