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Plaintiff offers to drop 'Stairway' suit for $1, writing credit

With a high-profile Copyright Infringement lawsuit looming, the surviving members of legendary hard rock band Led Zeppelin have been offered a settlement. Instead of taking their chances in court, the plaintiff has offered to settle the case for $1. Oh, and co-writing credit on one of the most famous rock ‘n roll songs of all time.

As we discussed in this blog last month, the estate of a deceased member of Spirit, a band from the 1960s, is suing Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones for Copyright Infringement over the acoustic guitar passage that opens their song “Stairway to Heaven.” The administrator of the estate claims that Page, who played the passage, stole it from a Spirit song called “Taurus” written by the deceased musician.

Attorneys for Led Zeppelin argue that any similarities between the two songs is due to them having a similar music “structure” that musicians have been using for centuries. Still, the opportunity to settle out of court for virtually no money might be tempting. And what is a co-writing credit worth, anyway?

According to Guitar World, quite a lot. Page and Plant, the currently credited writers of “Stairway,” made a deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2008 that gives that company the right to use “Stairway” and other songs for its own purposes for 10 years. In exchange, Page and Plant are getting $60 million. Having to share even a portion of that with the plaintiff would be quite costly.

Most lawsuits settle out of court, but when artistic credit -- or a large amount of money -- is at stake, it may be necessary to take your case to court. A good Intellectual Property attorney will be equally able to negotiate on your behalf and present your strongest possible case to the judge or jury.

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