Will Lawrence Ferrara help prove Zeppelin's innocence?
It's been a long delay but a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin claiming the band plagiarized their hit 'Stairway To Heaven' from Spirit has finally gone to trial today (June 14th 2016). The jury will be left to decide whether or not they agree with evidence presented by a qualified musicologist.
Led Zeppelin face trial over 'Stairway To Heaven' copyright infringement claims
The judge presiding over the trial, Gary Klausner, has ruled that evidence from said musicologist Lawrence Ferrara will be presented in court, despite an attempted block against him from Francis Malofiy, the attorney of Michael Skidmore who filed the suit in 2014, for what you might call a conflict of interest.
A brief overview then; Michael Skidmore is a trustee of Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California), late songwriter and guitarist of 60s rock band Spirit. Skidmore filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin two years ago, alleging that the famous riff from their 1971 hit 'Stairway To Heaven' was totally ripped off from Spirit's 1967 song 'Taurus' and suggesting that Led Zeppelin heard the song while they were on tour with Spirit before 'Stairway To Heaven' was written.
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin denied the claims, and declared that the chord progression was too much of a common occurrence in music to be warranted copyright protection. But the judge has since ruled that the case is worthy of a trial and so it begins, despite the band having been offered a settlement of $1 plus a writing credit for Randy California and future royalities.
A number of conditions have been put into place, however, that affect the claims of both sides. The jury will not be presented with information regarding Led Zeppelin's drug use at the time (as evidence that they never heard 'Taurus'), past accusations of plagiarism (such as the Willie Dixon and 'Whole Lotta Love' case) or the personal financial status of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
Malofiy attempted to push through a motion that would prevent Ferrara from testifying in defence of Led Zeppelin, just because he has previously been hired to analyse the songs by the plaintiff's side. Anderson claimed the move was a 'baseless and desperate attempt to interfere with their defense' according to The Hollywood Reporter. 'Defendants' counsel did exactly what was appropriate when they learned that Dr. Ferrara had been consulted by Universal and Rondor: They obtained Universal and Rondor's consent to defendants' retention of Dr. Ferrara', Anderson responded.
The judge threw out the motion, but we are yet to hear what he has to say about Anderson's opposition to Skidmore's request to introduce electric guitars into the courtroom for a demonstration. Anderson's reasoning was that Ferrara doesn't play the guitar, so who would be playing it? Malofiy? 'To permit him to do so would not only make his counsel a witness at trial, but effectively give Skidmore a new, previously undisclosed 'expert', said Anderson.