Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant Takes Center Stage in ‘Stairway' Copyright Trial

At stake in the closely watched lawsuit for alleged copyright infringement are millions of dollars in past and future "Stairway" royalties

Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant described his memory of encounters 40 years ago as foggy and said he does not remember hanging out with the band Spirit when he took the stand Tuesday in a closely watched copyright trial.

Plant and songwriter Jimmy Page are accused to stealing a riff from a Spirit song for "Stairway to Heaven." Plant testified in federal court in Los Angeles that he never owned a Spirit album, but he knew one of their songs from a compilation album.

Plant said he knows that Spirit played a show in Birmingham, England, but he was in a bad car wreck that night and has no memory of the evening. Based on testimony from the past week, he has no recollection of almost anyone he's hung out with, Plant said.

The remark caused an eruption of laughter in the court.

Page was on the witness stand last week.

White hair tied back and sporting a tailored black suit, the 72-year-old was an affable presence in the austere courtroom. Page testified that he only recently heard the obscure 1968 instrumental and first knowingly heard the track "Taurus" a few years ago.

Lawyers representing the trust of Spirit's late guitarist-songwriter Randy Craig Wolfe, known as Randy California, contend that Page and Zeppelin's singer-lyricist Robert Plant swiped the descending guitar arpeggio opening of 1971's "Stairway" from Spirit's 1968 album track "Taurus."


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At stake in the closely watched lawsuit for alleged copyright infringement are millions of dollars in past and future "Stairway" royalties. Some reports estimate the song has earned more than $500 million.

The lawsuit was lodged in 2014, more than 40 years after "Stairway" was released, due to a change in copyright law that allows for such complaints to be filed when infringement is alleged to have taken place in the three previous years.

The jury will have to decide whether there are any substantial similarities between the "Taurus" deposit copy -- or sheet music -- and the first two and a half minutes of the copyrighted recording of "Stairway."

The Wolfe trust contends that Page first heard key musical elements later used in "Stairway" when Spirit performed "Taurus" when the band shared the bill with Zeppelin on the British band's first United States date, in Denver in 1968, and at three pop festivals the following year.

However, in his opening statement Tuesday, defense attorney Peter Anderson told jurors that "Stairway to Heaven" had been composed by Page and Plant, "and them alone, period."

The attorney said that although Page owned the 1968 album that contained the instrumental at the center of the case, "there's no evidence that because he has an album now, it doesn't mean he had it 45 years ago."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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