Expert witnesses on Thursday told a jury in Los Angeles federal court that Led Zeppelin’s 1971 classic rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven” shares too many similarities with a 1968 song by another band to be considered coincidental.
The two experts — each called to testify on behalf of the plaintiff in the high-stakes copyright case — dissected the acoustic guitar intro that begins the legendary eight-minute opus and compared it to an instrumental released three years earlier, “Taurus” by Spirit.
Francis Malofiy, an attorney for a trust established in the name of late Spirit founder Randy Wolfe, alleges Zeppelin ripped off “Taurus” while writing one of the most recognizable songs in classic rock history.
“To my ear, they sound like they are one piece of music,” guitar instructor Kevin Hanson told jurors Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Alexander Stewart, a music professor at the University of Vermont, agreed that both songs not only share a similar chord progression and other “unique and distinctive elements,” but also contain riffs that resolve “in an unusual way” that other tunes don’t, Rolling Stone reported.
As legal reporters on hand for this week’s highly-anticipated trial made clear, however, Thursday’s testimony supporting Mr. Malofiy’s argument followed an otherwise comparably unsuccessful week of hearings in which he wrestled with his star witness and U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner alike.
Jimmy Page, Zeppelin’s guitarist and songwriter, took the stand on Wednesday and Thursday this week to field questions from Mr. Malofiy, but managed to avoid answering with respect to the musical similarities between the two songs because he hadn’t been designated as a musical expert in the case, the L.A. Times reported.
“You’re wasting a lot of time,” the judge reportedly told Mr. Malofiy amid several unsuccessful attempts at forcing the guitarist to answer questions.
More than 100 objections raised by Mr. Page’s legal team were sustained by the time the trial’s third day wrapped up Thursday, Billboard reported.
Outside court, meanwhile, Late Show host Stephen Colbert raised doubts over whether the group will emerge victorious during Thursday evening’s television broadcast on CBS after playing audio snippets from both songs.
“They’re screwed,” he said. “Guys, take your money and hide it in Panama.”
Indeed, the eventual verdict decided in federal court will undoubtedly have major financial repercussions regardless of the outcome. Conde Nast’s Portfolio previously estimated the song made around $562 million in publishing royalties between 1971 and 2008, and an economist on Friday said Zeppelin has earned $58.5 million during the last five years for royalties stemming from few dozen songs, “Stairway” included.
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