Led Zeppelin can exit lawsuit for US$1

ROME • Lawyers suing members of rock supergroup Led Zeppelin say their client is willing to settle a lawsuit over the band's most famous song - a claim potentially worth millions of dollars - for just US$1 (S$1.35).

The catch is that band members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page would have to give dead rocker Randy California a writing credit on the iconic 1971 rock ballad Stairway To Heaven.

And that is probably worth a lot more than a buck. Such an agreement by Page and Plant would head off a much anticipated copyright infringement trial 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, known as Randy California.

Wolfe wrote an instrumental track called Taurus in the 1960s for the band Spirit that Mr Malofiy argues was the genesis of the famous ballad.

A deal on those terms would mean sharing future income from one of the most recognisable rock songs ever written. Lawyers for Led Zeppelin argue that any similarity between the songs was limited to a musical structure that is too commonplace to be entitled to copyright protection.

A filing by Mr Malofiy cites a 2008 agreement that Page and Plant made with Warner/Chappell Music. Under it, the two are getting US$60 million over 10 years for the company's right to exploit Stairway and other songs.

Malofiy contends 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 US$40 million.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Led Zeppelin can exit lawsuit for US$1'. Print Edition | Subscribe