Did Led Zeppelin steal the opening riff of "Stairway to Heaven," arguably the most popular and lucrative rock song of all time, from a Sixties band called Spirit?
An American court may soon have to answer the question, if a lawyer representing deceased Spirit guitarist Randy California, makes good on his threat to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the British giants of rock, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
The lawyer, Francis Alexander Malofiy, is also seeking an injunction to block the planned re-release of the album containing the song in in deluxe, remastered vinyl and CD editions.
Spirit and Led Zeppelin played several shows together in 1968 and 1969 and there's no argument that Jimmy Page, who wrote the first version of "Stairway to Heaven" was aware of the Spirit song "Taurus," which the surviving members of Spirit say was the model for the Led Zeppelin song.
“The guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’" California said in an interview with Listener magazine in 1997.
"It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it,” he told the magazine.
It's not the first time that Led Zeppelin has been accused of "borrowing" from other artists. They have settled at least four copyright lawsuits in the past.
“Both Led Zeppelin and Warner Music will be offering no comment for this story,” said Jason Elzy, a spokesman for New York-based Warner Music.
A 2008 estimate of song earnings, including royalties and record sales, concluded that "Stairway to Heaven" had earned at least $562 million.
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