Did Led Zeppelin Steal ‘Stairway to Heaven’? Court May Say Yes

Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven plagiarism case copied

Led Zeppelin may top lists of reigning rock heroes, but one of their most iconic songs could very well have been written at the hands of another forgotten 1970s songwriter. At least that’s what a Pennsylvania district court just ruled, reported Billboard.

The plaintiff in the case is the guitarist of the band Spirit, who toured with Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s — where the band claims to have played “Stairway to Heaven” long before Led Zeppelin purports to have penned the hit in 1971. Jimmy Page has in fact often told an elaborate story about hiding out in a cottage in Wales to drum up inspiration for the hit.

Led Zeppelin at first tried to avoid the lawsuit by releasing a statement claiming that they should not be subject to the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, releasing a statement attempting to avert the case.

“The individual defendants are British citizens residing in England, own no property in Pennsylvania and have no contacts with Pennsylvania, let alone ties sufficient to render them essentially at home here.”

Randy Craig Wolfe, the guitarist who claims to have written the hit, fired back at Led Zeppelin with a response that not-so-subtly highlighted the sheer amount of profit that Led Zeppelin had made with the song, causing the court to rule that Led Zeppelin must be present for the hearing.

“Defendants are subject to specific jurisdiction in this district because they make millions of dollars from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by directly targeting this district for the exploitation of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ through CD sales, digital downloading, radio and television play, advertising, marketing, concert performances, other performances, licensing, and otherwise targeting resident individuals and businesses to profit off the exploitation of ‘Stairway to Heaven.'”

Of course, this isn’t the first instance of Led Zeppelin being accused of plagiarism. The band was also slammed by the original writer of “Dazed and Confused” for taking credit for the song after hearing it performed while on tour with Jake Holmes in 1967. “Whole Lotta Love,” “In My Time of Dying,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “The Lemon Song,” and several others have been called out over the years for striking similarities between Led Zeppelin’s versions and other tracks by some of their contemporaries. Those who have accused the band were often people who played the stolen song within audible distance of Led Zeppelin before the tracks were released.

Other cases, though many not brought to court, note that Led Zeppelin was heavily influenced by blues and often picked up melodies from classic artists like Muddy Waters.

[Image via Flickr]