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'Stairway to Heaven' copyright trial could end quickly

By
Yvette C. Hammett
English rocker Jimmy Page attends The Brit Awards 2015 in London in 2015. He was in attendance Tuesday during a copyright trial over whether Led Zeppelin's iconic 'Stairway to Heaven' lifted an intro from the band Spirit. File Photo by Paul Treadway/UPI
English rocker Jimmy Page attends The Brit Awards 2015 in London in 2015. He was in attendance Tuesday during a copyright trial over whether Led Zeppelin's iconic 'Stairway to Heaven' lifted an intro from the band Spirit. File Photo by Paul Treadway/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, June 15 (UPI) -- Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven copyright trial could end as quickly as it got started Tuesday over whether a video played as evidence was properly submitted in the case.

Almost immediately a debate arose about a possible mistrial as a result of the dispute, the Independent reported.

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Band frontman Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page are facing a jury trial over claims they stole their iconic 1971 song's introduction from Spirit's 1967 instrumental track Taurus, The plaintiff's lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy said previously that this case is about "credit where credit is due" not winning damages.

Malofiy is seeking a single $1 settlement along with a writing credit for Spirit guitarist and composer Randy California, whose real name is Randy Wolfe. California's trustees would then receive future profits from Stairway to Heaven.

US District Judge Gary Klausner already ruled in April that Stairway to Heaven bears "substantial" similarities with Taurus after Michael Skidmore, a trustee for California, filed a lawsuit alleging that Page was inspired to write the hit song after touring with Spirit in the late 1960s.

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Page, 72, and Plant, 67, were both "incredible performers, incredible musicians but they covered other people's music and tried to make it their own," Malofiy said.

But the band's lawyer Robert Anderson said the two men "created Stairway to Heaven independently without resort to Taurus or without copying anything in Taurus." He said there is no proof Led Zeppelin even heard Taurus until decades after creating Stairway to Heaven, BBC reported.

Anderson said the part of the song in dispute is a sequence of notes in the opening bars,a "descending chromatic line...something that appears in all kinds of songs".

He said such a "commonplace" musical device that dates back centuries is not protected by copyright and was not actually owned by the plaintiff.

Plant and Page both looked relaxed during the trial's opening, their hair pulled back in ponytails, occasionally leaning toward each other to discuss evidence being presented.

Music from The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Sound of Music all were invoked during opening statements in the trial, which is expected to last four or five days.

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