Jury deliberating after Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant says he doesn't remember band's early days


 (AP )

Jurors could rewrite a key chapter of rock 'n' roll history as they deliberate whether Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant lifted a riff from fellow rockers for its epic "Stairway to Heaven."

Federal court jurors deliberated for several hours in Los Angeles on Wednesday after closing arguments were completed, but they did not reach a verdict. They're scheduled to resume Thursday.

The trust for Randy Wolfe is seeking millions of dollars and a third of the songwriting credit for "Stairway," which it claims the band took from "Taurus," released by Wolfe's band Spirit in 1968.

A lawyer representing the trust of a deceased songwriter criticized members of Led Zeppelin for selective memories and convenient truths in testifying about the origin of Page's acoustic guitar opening of the 1971 rock anthem.

Plant, whose memory of creating "Stairway" was clear, claimed to recall very few encounters dating back to the band's early days.

Plant told a packed courtroom that he did not remember hanging out with members of the band Spirit after the American band played a Birmingham, England, show in 1970, though he said he and his wife were in a bad car wreck and he has no memory of the evening.

"I don't have a recollection of mostly anyone I've hung out with," Plant said as the courtroom roared with laughter. "In the chaos and hubbub, how are you going to remember one guy when you haven't seen him for 40 years."

Spirit's former bass player had testified to drinking beers with Plant and playing the billiards-like game snooker after a show at Mother's Club in 1970.

"He didn't tell you where he got the idea for the introduction," attorney Francis Malofiy said in his closing argument in federal court in Los Angeles. "It was a piece of music lifted from 'Taurus.'"

Led Zeppelin's lawyer, however, said the trust didn't own the copyright and the passage in question was a common descending chord sequence in the public domain.

Attorney Peter Anderson also said the plaintiff failed to prove a case that should have been brought more than 40 years ago when Wolfe was alive and Page and Plant would have had better memories.

"How can you wait a half century and criticize people ... 45 years later for the delay you caused?" Anderson said. "They should have sued in 1972."

If the jury finds that the "Taurus" copyright was violated, jurors would have a wide range of damages to consider.

An expert for estate trustee Michael Skidmore, said Led Zeppelin work that included "Stairway" earned gross revenues of nearly $60 million in the past five years. Some of that work, however, included other songs and could be part of a 2008 deal that's outside the statute of limitations.

Defense experts offered much smaller figures focused solely on revenues from the song in its many forms — as a digital download, ringtones, streaming and as a fraction of multiple albums.

A British accountant testified Tuesday that the gross revenues Page and Plant received from "Stairway" during that time period amounted to just over $1 million.

An executive for Led Zeppelin's label, Rhino Entertainment Co., said the song earned $3 million in revenue and a net profit of $868,000 since 2011.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.