Two members of Led Zeppelin, singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page, appeared in court in Los Angeles Tuesday to defend themselves against accusations that “Stairway to Heaven,” the band’s legendary eight-minute ballad, was plagiarized.
For two years now, the band has grappled with a civil lawsuit waged by the estate of a musician known onstage as Randy California. California, who died in 1997, played guitar for the band Spirit, whose song “Taurus” features a guitar riff similar to “Stairway to Heaven”‘s famous plucking intro.
The Guardian reports that “Stairway to Heaven” has brought Led Zeppelin more than half a billion dollars in profit over the years; California’s estate is suing for a share of those royalties. “Give credit where credit is due,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Francis Malofiy said, according to the BBC.
In his opening statement, Malofiy said that Page and Plant were “incredible performers, incredible musicians but they covered other people’s music and tried to make it their own.”
In retort, Led Zeppelin’s lawyer Robert Anderson said that the band had never heard “Taurus” when writing “Stairway to Heaven,” and that the controversial riff in question was a “commonplace” musical device with a long history.