Led Zeppelin's Trial Over 'Stairway to Heaven' Origin Begins

The band has been accused of stealing the opening riff.

ByABC News
June 14, 2016, 10:12 PM

— -- Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page appeared in the court today to face a claim that they ripped off the opening riff to their iconic 1971 hit "Stairway to Heaven."

The 2014 lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claims that the band stole the lick from a 1968 song called "Taurus" by the band Spirit.

The late Randy Wolfe, who was known by the stage name "Randy California" was the composer of that song, and Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, filed the claim.

"This was a song that Randy California had written for the love of his life, Robin. That was her sign, Taurus," attorney Francis Malofiy said, according to the Associated Press. "Little did anyone know it would fall into the hands of Jimmy Page and become the intro to 'Stairway to Heaven.'"

The AP reported that Peter Anderson, a lawyer for Led Zeppelin, said today there was no evidence that they stole the "Stairway to Heaven" opening and that the Wolfe estate does not own the copyright.

Today eight jurors -- four men and four women of differing backgrounds - were selected and were told to expect a four to five day trial. Then each side completed their opening statements.

Page shook his head in disagreement when the plaintiff’s attorney argued that Page was a session musician and not a songwriter in the early days of Led Zeppelin, and that he lifted from Spirit’s song "Taurus."

The first witness for plaintiff’s side was Wolfe’s sister, Janet Wolfe, who said that her brother was a musical prodigy, coming from a musical family. She also testified that he played "Taurus" all the time at concerts, as a tribute to his wife. Plant and Page claimed they didn’t know the song "Taurus," though they shared the bill at some concerts starting in Dec. 26, 1968.

The second witness was Jay Ferguson, a former member of Spirit. He testified that Spirit played at several concerts with Led Zeppelin and said "Taurus" was played “quite often," though the defense said that the song wasn’t on any playlists that they saw from concerts.

Ferguson also argued that Led Zeppelin covered one of their songs, "Fresh Garbage." His testimony will continue tomorrow morning.

In April, Malofiy told ABC News that said his client is not seeking specified damages. However, the claims include statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringement.