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Led Zeppelin’s Copyright Lawsuit Is Going to California

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In spite of the plaintiff’s efforts to keep the case in Philadelphia, a lawsuit alleging that Led Zeppelin plagiarized “Stairway to Heaven” from a song by Spirit is changing venues.

The case, filed last spring, was filed by founding Spirit bassist Mark Andes for the estate of the band’s guitarist, Randy California, who died in 1997. The “Stairway to Heaven” intro bears noted similarities to California’s composition “Taurus,” which appeared on Spirit’s self-titled 1968 debut.

The trial’s location has been a point of contention for months. Led Zeppelin’s attorneys originally argued that it shouldn’t be held in Philadelphia because “The individual defendants are British citizens residing in England, own no property in Pennsylvania and have no contacts with Pennsylvania, let alone ties sufficient to render them essentially at home here” — an argument they initially lost, leading to the hearing that ultimately sent the case to California.

Bloomberg reports that the band’s attorneys attempted to have the case dismissed outright, a motion the judge dismissed, saying instead that the trial should be moved to federal court in Los Angeles. As Bloomberg notes, the switch could have profound implications for both sides in the case.

Zeppelin’s lawyers reportedly intend to “challenge the creation” of Randy California’s trust, which could be easier in the new venue, but they’ll also be arguing their case in the same court that recently ruled against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against Marvin Gaye with their song “Blurred Lines.”

If the lawsuit succeeds in winning Randy California a posthumous co-writing credit, it could send millions of dollars to his estate. Quoting a 2008 audit, Bloomberg‘s report says the song has been responsible for “at least $562 million” in earnings — although Led Zeppelin would only be required to part with his share of whatever has come in during the three-year statute of limitations period.

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