The copyright infringement lawsuit over Led Zeppelin's signature song, “Stairway To Heaven,” opened on Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court.
The suit – brought by Randy California's estate and members of Spirit by trustee Michael Skidmore – claims the acoustic introduction to 1971’s “Stairway” was lifted from their 1968 instrumental, “Taurus.”
The Wrap reports the proceedings kicked off with jury selection, with the lawyers settling on an eight-person jury of four men and four women; during the selection process, three potential jurors identified as Led Zeppelin fans were eliminated from participating.
Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant were in court Tuesday and are expected to testify during the week-long session.
During opening statements, Skidmore’s attorney Francis Malofiy asked to play a video of the opening to “Stairway” being played by an expert.
Led Zeppelin’s attorney Peter Anderson pointed out that the video was not an agreed-upon exhibit in the trial, at which point presiding Judge Gary Klausner warned Malofiy that he risked a potential mistrial if that were the case.
Malofiy played the video, anyway, before outlining copyright issues while stressing that Zeppelin’s members were well aware of Spirit despite claims to the contrary and that the group built its career from playing other people’s songs and making them their own.
Zeppelin attorney Anderson, meanwhile, asserted that “evidence will make it clear there was no copying.”
“‘Stairway To Heaven’ was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and them alone. Period,” stated Anderson.
Anderson also told the court that the chromatic chord progression common to both songs is so commonplace to be known as a “minor line cliche” that goes back centuries and has been used in The Beatles song “Michelle,” which preceded “Taurus.”
Anderson also asserted that Skidmore and the Wolfe trust do not own the copyright to “Taurus,” and instead the copyright is owned by Lou Adler’s Hollenbeck Music, which registered the tune for copyright in 1967.
“Stairway To Heaven” appeared on the UK band’s 1971 album, “Led Zeppelin IV.”
One of the best-selling albums in music history, the project went on to sell more than 37 million copies worldwide, including 23 million in the US alone.
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