The lawyers suing Led Zeppelin say their client will settle the "Stairway to Heaven" lawsuit—a claim that's potentially worth millions of dollars—for only $1.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page would have to give the late Randy California a writing credit on the track.
If Page and Plant agree, they'd prevent a major copyright infringement trial that's scheduled for May 10 in Los Angeles federal court.
“It’s always been about credit where credit is due,” said attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy, who brought the suit on behalf of Michael Skidmore, administrator of the trust of the late Randy Wolfe, aka Randy California. Wolfe/California wrote a tune called "Taurus" for Spirit; Malofiy argues that "Taurus" was the genesis of "Stairway to Heaven." You can hear both songs below.
Led Zeppelin's lawyers argue that any similarity between the songs is based on a musical structure that has existed for centuries, and that it's far too common to be covered by copyright protection.
So, how much money are we talking about here—assuming Page and Plant don't take the $1 deal (and don't fare very well in the trial)? Let's use the recent "Blurred Lines" case as an example; last year, a jury ordered Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke to pay $7.4 million for borrowing from Marvin Gaye’s "Got to Give It Up." A judge later reduced it to about $5.3 million, and the case is now on appeal.
Or, as Bloomberg explains it, a filing by Malofiy in the Led Zeppelin case cites a 2008 agreement that Page and Plant made with Warner/Chappell Music. Under this deal, the songwriters are getting $60 million over 10 years for the company’s right to exploit "Stairway" and other songs. Malofiy says that under the three-year statute of limitations governing his lawsuit, at least two-thirds of that amount should be allocated to the infringing period.
That would be about $40 million.