Jimmy Page Testifies in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Trial

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page concluded his testimony on Wednesday in a closely watched trial to determine if “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarized its introduction from a progressive rock song from the same era.
     With white hair tied tightly back into a ponytail, Page spoke briefly about how one of his band’s most recognizable songs was mixed. He explained to his attorney Peter Anderson during cross-examination that he had traveled to Sunset Studios in Los Angeles to mix the song and other tracks, including “When the Levee Breaks.”
     When Page returned to England and played the track at Olympic Studios, he was dissatisfied with what he listened to, telling jurors that the sound was “flat.” The band later returned to the recording studio to remix the song, Page said.
     The Sunset mix of the song was kept in the vault until about two years ago when it was used for a rerelease, Page said.
     Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant has also been present for the jury trial which is now in its third day. As Page testified, Plant sat at his counsel’s table looking somber, occasionally resting his chin on his fingers as he listened to Page talk.
     Seated across from Plant was plaintiff Michael Skidmore, a trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust. In 2014, Skidmore brought a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against the duo, claiming they ripped off Randy Wolfe, aka Randy California, a singer and guitarist with Spirit, which released “Taurus” on its debut 1968 album.
     The first prong of the Skidmore’s case has focused on whether Page and Plant had access to “Taurus” before they created “Stairway to Heaven.”
     Skidmore’s attorney Francis Malofiy told jurors that evidence shows the band played with Spirit several times in the U.S. during the late 1960s and that Page and Plant were admirers of the band.
     But when he took the stand on Wednesday, Page told the court that he was familiar with a few Taurus tracks that he heard on U.K. radio, but he heard “Taurus” for the first time a few years ago when a comparison between the two tracks surfaced online.
     “Something like that would stick in my mind. It was totally alien to me,” Page said of “Taurus.”
     At one point Wednesday, Malofiy, who had called Page to the stand as a hostile witness, asked if he had a gift with the guitar.
     Page, one of rock’s guitar greats, paused for a long moment and finally said, “Well, yeah.” The gallery erupted with laughter at the understatement.
     Malofiy also asked Page if it was possible he forgot hearing “Taurus.” The question was never answered because of an objection by Page’s lawyer.
     The lawyer, who referred to Page at one point as the “alleged composer” of “Stairway to Heaven,” struggled to get past objections so Page could compare the acoustic guitar riffs in the two songs.
     Page acknowledged they were both in A-minor, but he said he had never seen the sheet music and couldn’t comment on the tempo or structure of “Taurus.”
     Malofiy told reporters on Wednesday that after establishing access, he would move on to showing jurors that “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven” are “substantially similar” under copyright law.
     Page and Plant’s attorney Peter Anderson told the jury during opening arguments, however, that 13-second descending bass lines that form the basis of Skidmore’s claims are commonplace and have existed for centuries.
     “‘Stairway to Heaven’ was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and them alone. Period,” Anderson said Tuesday.
     Anderson also doubts Skidmore’s right to claim ownership of “Taurus,” noting that California assigned the “Taurus” rights to Lou Adler’s Hollenbeck Music in 1967. According to Skidmore, California was 16 years old when he signed the agreement.
     By some estimates, “Stairway to Heaven” is worth $562 million in publishing royalties and record sales.
     Skidmore’s lawsuit asks for compensatory damages, profits, statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement, punitive damages, and exemplary damages.
     When Courthouse News asked Malofiy on Wednesday for a damages estimate, he said, “Credit and more than one dollar.”
     Testimony was to continue Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Judge Robert Gary Klausner’s courtroom on the eighth floor of the Edward Roybal courthouse.
     The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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