Led Zeppelin wants drug and alcohol evidence barred at ‘Stairway’ trial
By Amanda Bronstad, From The National Law Journal
Rock legends Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are poised to appear at trial next month in a copyright fight over Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” but they want evidence about alleged past escapades with drugs and alcohol kept outside the courtroom.
Both go to trial on May 10 after a federal judge on Friday denied the band’s motion for summary judgment. On the witness lists for the trial, expected to last three weeks in a downtown Los Angeles federal courtroom, are both Page and Plant. In a declaration, defense lawyer Helene Freeman wrote that Plant, who begins a European tour on July 1, had “cleared his schedule so that he could be present throughout the trial.”
In the 2014 suit, a trustee for the late Randy Craig Wolfe claims that Led Zeppelin ripped off his musical composition “Taurus,” performed by the band Spirit in the late 1960s, to make two minutes and 37 seconds of the opening guitar riff of “Stairway to Heaven.”
In an April 8 ruling, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner disagreed with Wolfe’s trustee that there was “striking similarity” between the two songs but found there was enough evidence of “substantial similarity.”
Plant and Page have filed declarations in the case claiming they had never heard of “Taurus” prior to the lawsuit and didn’t remember hearing the band Spirit.
But the trustee, who claims the band performed at the same venues as Spirit at least three times in the 1960, asserts there’s a reason for that lack of memory. He plans to use evidence of the “adverse effects” of their drinking or drug use in the 1960s.
The band members have sought to exclude that evidence in a March 25 motion in limine. They also have sought to exclude several witnesses whom the trustee has slated to testify about Wolfe’s encounters with the band. Also on the trustee’s witness list is Linda Mensch, of counsel at Bryan Cave’s Chicago office, who wrote in a declaration that Wolfe approached her in the 1990s about filing suit against Led Zeppelin.
Neither Freeman, a partner at New York’s Phillips Nizer, nor plaintiff lawyer Francis Malofiy of Francis Alexander in Media, Pennsylvania, responded to requests for comment.
IMAGE: Musicians, from left, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham at the”‘Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day” premiere in New York, on Oct. 9, 2012.
Photo by Dario Cantatore/Invision via AP