Led Zeppelin Loses First Round in 'Stairway to Heaven' Lawsuit

British rockers fail to dismiss a case over song theft
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Led Zeppelin is stuck in Pennsylvania at the moment, forced to confront claims the band stole its biggest hit "Stairway to Heaven" from Randy Craig Wolfe, founding member of the band Spirit.

Wolfe's heirs sued Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and their music companies in June, asserting that the story Page has told over the years about holing himself up in a remote cottage in Wales in 1970 and creating the iconic song is false. The plaintiff alleges that the music really came from Spirit, which once toured with Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s.

In reaction to the lawsuit, the defendants challenged jurisdiction.

"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," stated a memorandum to dismiss.

In response, the plaintiff amended the lawsuit with some emphasis on why a Pennsylvania judge should oversee the case: "Defendants are subject to specific jurisdiction in this district because they make millions of dollars from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by directly targeting this district for the exploitation of 'Stairway to Heaven' through CD sales, digital downloading, radio and television play, advertising, marketing, concert performances, other performances, licensing, and otherwise targeting resident individuals and businesses to profit off the exploitation of 'Stairway to Heaven.'”

U.S. District Court Judge Juan Sánchez has now denied the motion to dismiss or transfer without prejudice, meaning that the Zeppelin parties can still try again.

The judge didn't offer any reasoning in his written order, but those looking for the standards by which judges determine jurisdiction can read about another judge's recent decision to throw out a trademark lawsuit filed by John Wayne's heirs against Duke University.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner
 

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