Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page spars with attorney over 'Stairway' plagiarism allegations

In the closely watched trial to determine whether rock behemoth Led Zeppelin stole another band’s music for its iconic hit “Stairway to Heaven,” two music experts Thursday suggested similarities exist between the two songs while Zeppelin guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Page continued to deny allegations of theft.

The third day of the high-stakes copyright trial played out in a downtown federal courtroom as Francis Malofiy, the attorney representing the estate of singer Randy Wolfe, continued to try to build a case that Page and Zeppelin singer Robert Plant lifted parts of Wolfe’s song “Taurus” for the famous acoustic opening of “Stairway.”

Wolfe was the guitarist and singer for Spirit, a Los Angeles band that built a considerable following in the late 1960s and 1970s before largely fading into obscurity.

Page sparred for two hours with Malofiy, a carry-over from Wednesday when the lawyer called the 72-year-old, white-haired rock star to the stand. In sometimes sharp exchanges, Malofiy tried, largely in vain, to extract incriminating concessions from Page.

Trying to sidestep repeated objections from Zeppelin’s attorneys and increasingly impatient admonitions from U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner for out-of-bounds questions, Malofiy delved into the minutiae of the musical composition of “Stairway” in an effort to show similarities to Spirit’s 1968 instrumental “Taurus.” 

“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying,” Page responded brusquely, when Malofiy asked with a clear note of sarcasm whether it was true Page couldn’t estimate the tempo of “Stairway.”

Klausner thwarted much of the inquiry because Page was not designated as a musical expert in the case and so was not permitted to give his opinion on the structure of either song.

The judge also shut down repeated attempts by Malofiy to introduce elements of “Taurus” included in recordings of the song. Only the sheet music filed with the U.S. Copyright Office is at question in the trial. 

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