Led Zeppelin Slammed With 'Stairway' Plagiarism Lawsuit

A lawyer representing the late guitarist Randy California filed a suit claiming Led Zeppelin stole California's guitar riff for "Stairway to Heaven."

Led Zeppelin Slammed With 'Stairway' Plagiarism Lawsuit
Flickr / Heinrich Klaffs

‚ÄčLed Zeppelin's crowning achievement, the song "Stairway to Heaven," is some of the greatest eight minutes in rock history. But one lawyer thinks history should be rewritten.

Rolling Stone reported Tuesday a reissue of the album "Led Zeppelin IV" could be delayed due to a plagiarism suit. It was filed by a lawyer who represents Randy California. His client is the deceased guitarist from the band Spirit, Led Zeppelin's tour mate. (Via Flickr / Heinrich Klaffs)

The "Today" show reports Spirit is claiming the band ripped the intro for its 1971 single "Stairway to Heaven" from Spirit's 1968 song "Taurus." Now California's trust wants to prevent the classic album from being reissued unless the guitarist is given proper credit. (Via NBC)

The lawyer explained to Businessweek"The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on 'Stairway to Heaven.' It's been a long time coming."

So why now? Rolling Stone says Spirit didn't sue for four decades because the band didn't have the cash for a lawyer.

In Listener magazine in 1997, California made his first public comments alleging his guitar riff was stolen. (Via Warner Bros. / Led Zeppelin)

And since then, Businessweek notes Zeppelin's crediting track record has been tarnished. The band has been in four previous lawsuits for allegedly stealing people's music or not properly crediting songwriters. All the cases were settled, and additional credits have been added to the songs. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Dina Regine)

A legal analyst explained to CNN the outcome of this recent case will be left in the people's hands — or ears, rather.

"Here's what's interesting: It's not the test legally based, Pamela, on what an expert says. It's basically if an ordinary person thinks that these songs sound similar, and they certainly do.” (Via CNN)

"So listen to their slower version and compare." (Via ABC)


This idea led to several online and TV outlets conducting their own live tests. Businessweek even turned it into a game.

The reissued copies of "Led Zeppelin," "Led Zeppelin II" and "Led Zeppelin III" are scheduled to hit stores June 3. Led Zeppelin and Warner Music have declined to comment on the case.