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Experts Testify for Both Sides in “Stairway to Heaven” Trial


Dave J Hogan/Getty ImagesTestimony continued Friday in Los Angeles at the trial stemming from a lawsuit claiming Led Zeppelin ripped off the Spirit song “Taurus” for its classic tune “Stairway to Heaven.”

The proceedings during the morning session featured testimony by the plaintiff’s last witnesses, including Michael Skidmore, trustee of late Spirit frontman Randy California‘s estate, who filed the suit against Led Zeppelin. Attorneys for Led Zeppelin suggested that Skidmore might not actually be the rightful trustee, and that he therefore wouldn’t be able to rightfully bring suit.

The plaintiff’s counsel also called Michael Einhorn, an expert in music industry economics and licensing who has a Ph.D. in economics from Yale. Einhorn discussed the amount of money Led Zeppelin has earned from its music since 2011, which is as far back as the plaintiff potentially can ask for monetary damages. He testified that the band’s catalog has earned a total of $58.5 million in various deals and royalties. It’s unclear what percentage of that amount is from “Stairway to Heaven.”

Meanwhile, the defense started its case by calling Dr. Lawrence Ferrara, professor of music at New York University, as an expert witness. His testimony sought to explain how “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus” are completely different, musically. Ferrara admitted that the songs share a similar descending chromatic minor line, but pointed out that many well-known songs also feature that melodic sequence, including “My Funny Valentine” and The Beatles‘ “Michelle.” In addition, he played several different note breakdowns of “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus” on keyboards in an attempt to display how dissimilar the tunes are.

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant both were in attendance again at the trial, but neither took the stand during the morning session.

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