Led Zeppelin may not be able to buy a “Stairway to Heaven” after some current legal troubles over the iconic 1971 song. A lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania against the influential English rock band and its music companies. Among the defendants are Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Super Hype Publishing Inc., and Warner Music Group.
The lawsuit was filed in late May 2014 by the family members of Randy Craig Wolfe who claim that the music from “Stairway” actually came from the rock group Spirit, of which Wolfe (a.k.a. Randy California) was a founding member in 1967. They specialized in progressive, psychedelic, and hard rock.
They assert that Page stole the tune—particularly the guitar chords—from Spirit’s instrumental song "Tauru," which the late Wolfe wrote. While Zeppelin toured with them in 1968, Page was able to become familiar with their music. As a result, they discredit the story of how Page wrote “Stairway” while secluded in a remote cabin in Wales.
"What happened to Randy California and Spirit is wrong. Led Zeppelin needs to do the right thing and give credit where credit is due. Randy California deserves writing credit for “Stairway to Heaven” and to take his place as an author of Rock’s greatest song," wrote the plaintiff in an amended complaint.
The defendants claimed that, as British citizens, they hold no stake in Pennsylvania, and the case must be transferred or dismissed.
However, an amended complaint by the plaintiff states that they are under the jurisdiction of Eastern Pennsylvania and they "exploited" the song in the area for millions of dollars through CD sales, digital downloads, television play, and concert performances.
District Court Judge Juan Sánchez denied grounds for dismissal or transfer on Oct. 10.
This is not the first time the band has been accused of stealing songs. Sixteen of their songs have been accused of being lifted from musicians like Jake Holmes, Bobby Parker, and Ritchie Valens. Among them are “Communication Breakdown,” and “Whole Lotta Love.”
According to their "Claims For Relief," the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust will receive thousands, possibly millions, of dollars in damages if successful.