- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Led Zeppelin’s surviving members could soon be going to California to defend “Stairway to Heaven” in federal court, and an attorney who says the legendary British rock group ripped-off an American act wants jurors to hear evidence of what he calls a “systematic and extensive use of plagiarism” behind some of the band’s biggest hits.

In court papers filed on Friday in Los Angeles, attorney Francis Malofiy said that “Stairway to Heaven” is hardly the sole Led Zeppelin song in which the band borrowed heavily from its influences, and that a District Court judge should refuse the band’s attempt to exclude outstanding claims of copyright infringement in a case concerning its 1971 classic rock anthem.

Mr. Malofiy is suing Led Zeppelin on behalf of a trustee for the late Randy Craig Wolfe, a L.A.-born musician whose 1967 song “Taurus,” performed by his group Spirit, bears a striking resemblance to the Led Zeppelin tune released four years later. Wolfe passed away in 1997, and Mr. Malofiy filed a copyright infringement suit in 2014 when “Stairway” was included on remastered version of the band’s eponymous fourth album and made available again for purchase

U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner last week said there was “enough similar protectable expression” between the tunes to bring the case to trial next month, and Mr. Malofiy wants other Zeppelin songs to be admissible in court to demonstrate that the supposed “Taurus” rip-off wasn’t an isolated incident.

Attorneys for Led Zeppelin wrote in a March 25 filing that the band’s other songs are “irrelevant” to the case, and called the plaintiff’s argument “merely an accusation of conduct and not, of course, proof that the conduct alleged occurred.”

“The law does not allow plaintiff to prove his case by tarring defendants as serial copiers, but that is exactly what plaintiff hopes to do,” Peter Anderson wrote last month on behalf of Led Zeppelin. “Evidence and argument of past claims, of settlements and theoretical claims never asserted, are irrelevant, inadmissible, unproven and unduly prejudicial, and should be excluded.”

Responding on Friday, however, Mr. Malofiy said that he can cite upwards of 20 instances where Led Zeppelin copied from other artists’ work, including seven songs where the band was forced to change songwriting credits after the fact as a result of legal threats and lawsuits: “Dazed and Confused,” “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “How Many More Times,” “The Lemon Song,” “Bring it On Home” and “When the Levee Breaks.”

“The fact of the matter is that Led Zeppelin’s songwriting process heavily relied upon taking other people’s music and passing it off as their own, which is relevant to the infringement claim in this case. It also shows a distinct pattern and routine practice, a course of conduct relevant to this copyright action, as well as proves plan,motive, opportunity, intent, lack of accident, and absence of mistake,” he wrote on behalf of Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the Wolfe trust.

“Led Zeppelin’s serial plagiarism goes directly to how Led Zeppelin wrote songs and how Led Zeppelin wrote Stairway to Heaven. This a basic, unavoidable factual dispute that underlies the entire case.”

Indeed, singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page have previously confessed to borrowing heavily from others, and Mr. Malofiy cites specific instances where the rock stars recalled stealing songs. The band has insisted that such wasn’t the case with “Taurus,” however, although Zeppelin and Spirit shared concert billing three times during the late 1960s.

“Plaintiff has indicated that he intends to argue that the supposed reason all or some of the individual defendants testified that they never heard ‘Taurus’ until this claim is the adverse effects of drinking or drug use in the 1960s or later,” Mr. Anderson wrote on behalf of Led Zeppelin last month. “Aside from the fact there is no evidence to support the accusation, plaintiff also failed to disclose any medical or other expert to opine as to the effects of supposed drinking or drug use. The testimony and argument is therefore irrelevant.”

Mr. Plant and Mr Page are both listed as potential witnesses and may be asked to testify when the case begins May 10.

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