You’re Selected for Possible Jury Duty for the Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” Plagiarism. Expect to be Asked These Questions.

Barring any out-of-court settlement–something that looks very unlikely–jury selection for the Led Zeppelin vs. Spirit “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism trial begins May 10 in Los Angeles. A jury will be asked to determine if portions of “Stairway” are unfair copies of passages from a 1967 instrumental by Spirit called “Taurus.”  If the Spirit side wins, they will be entitled to a share of all future profits generated by “Stairway,” a song that’s already thrown off $500 million in royalties. (Get the background here.)

Finding an impartial jury is going to be fun given that while few are familiar with “Taurus,” almost everyone knows “Stairway to Heaven.” That’s what makes the voir dire–the legal procedure whereby prospective jurors are probed for their ability to tell the truth–so interesting.

Pamela Chellin, a Canadian music writer living in Los Angeles, often covers music-related trials. She shared the voir dire documents with me and some of the questions jurors will be asked. The 28 pages contain the following:

MUSIC-RELATED QUESTIONS

24.Do you listen to music regularly? If so, what kind of music?

25.What radio stations do you listen to?

26.Who are your favorite recording artists?

27.What are some of your favorite songs?

28.What is the most common method by which you listen to music (for example, CDs, records, iTunes, radio, streaming services like Pandora or Spotify, YouTube, etc.)?

29.Do you have a collection of recorded music? If so,

  1. (a)  Approximately how many records, tapes, and/or CDs do youown?
  2. (b)  What kinds of music are in your collection?

30. Have you or anyone you know ever been employed in the music industry, including a record label company, a publisher of music, live concert, radio station, on line music service, public relations firms that represent musical artists or the music industry, or lawyers that represent musical artists or the music industry?

31. Have you ever attended a concert? When was the last time? Who were the performers?

32. Do you now or have you ever listened to rock and roll music? What artists did you listen to? Do you have an opinion about rock musicians?

33. Do you have an opinion about the honesty or trustworthiness of musicians, songwriters or singers? If so, what is your opinion?

34. Do you have an opinion as to the amount of money paid to musicians, songwriters or singers? If so, what is your opinion?

35. Are you familiar with record companies? Do you have an opinion as to the honesty or trustworthiness of employees or officers of such companies? If so, what is your opinion?

36. Some of the parties in this case are famous musical artists. Will that impact your ability to treat them fairly?

Skipping ahead in the first document, we have this:

  1. Are you familiar with the musical group Led Zeppelin? If so,
    1. (a)  What do you know about Led Zeppelin?
    2. (b)  Do you, or does someone you live with, own any of Led Zeppelin’s albums or songs? If so, which albums or songs?
    3. (c)  Do you have any views or opinions about Led Zeppelin?
    4. (d)  Have you ever heard Led Zeppelin’s music?
    5. (e)  Have you ever attended a Led Zeppelin concert, and if so, when and where?
    6. (f)  Have you read any books or articles about Led Zeppelin? Did you form any opinions about Led Zeppelin based on the book(s) or article(s)? What is your opinion?
  2. Are you familiar with the song Stairway to Heaven? If so,
    1. (a)  How did you become familiar with Stairway to Heaven?
    2. (b)  What do you know about Stairway to Heaven?
    3. (c)  Do you have any views or opinions about Stairway to Heaven?
  3. Have you heard of James Patrick Page, also known as Jimmy Page?
    1. (a)  What do you know about him?
    2. (b)  Do you have an opinion about his honesty or trustworthiness?
    3. (c)  Will your opinion about him interfere with your ability to rendera fair verdict in this case?
    4. (d)  Have you ever heard Jimmy Page’s music other than when he was with Led Zeppelin?

Now let’s head to the second document.

  • Does any member of the jury panel listen to rock and roll music?
  • Does any member of the jury panel listen to psychedelic music?
  • Does any member of the jury panel listen to pop music?
  • Does any member of the jury panel believe they could not make a decision in this case independent of their taste in music?

59. Does any member of the jury panel think that he or she is particularly knowledgeable about rock and roll bands from the 1960s or 1970s?

60. Does any member of the jury panel think it is possible for a witness today to remember things they heard or saw in the 1960s and 1970s?

61. Does any member of the jury panel think it is not possible for a witness today to remember things they heard or saw in the 1960s and 1970s?

62. Does any member of the jury panel have any celebrity role models?

63. Does any member of the jury panel think celebrities act differently publicly than they do privately?

64. Does anyone know who James Patrick Page, Robert Plant, or John Paul Jones are, or their band Led Zeppelin?

  • Does any member of the jury panel know them personally?
  • Does any member of the jury panel consider them to be a role model?
  • Is any member of the jury panel a fan of them?
  • Does any member of the jury panel think they are likable?
  • Does any member of the jury panel think they are unlikable?
  • Does any member of the jury panel have a negative impression of them?
  • Does any member of the jury panel have a positive impression of them?

65. Does any member of the jury panel think Page, Plant, and Jones acts the same way in the studio or their private lives as they do in public interviews?

66. Does any member of the jury panel own any albums or songs by Led Zeppelin, Page, Plant, or Jones?

67. Has any member of the jury panel ever heard the song “Stairway to Heaven”?

68. Does any member of the jury panel have any negative opinions about “Stairway to Heaven”?

69. Does any member of the jury panel have any positive opinions about “Stairway to Heaven”?

70. Is “Stairway to Heaven” personally significant to any member of the jury?

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of jury gets selected.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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