- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Led Zeppelin’s music publisher won’t be awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and other costs from the lawyer who unsuccessfully brought copyright infringement claims over the classic rock band’s 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven,” a federal judge ruled this week.

U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner handed down the decision Monday in a Los Angeles courthouse nearly one month after the publishing house, Warner/Chappell Music, asked for up to $800,000 from the lawyer who lost the plagiarism case, Francis Malofiy.

Mr. Malofiy sued the classic rock band’s surviving members in 2014 on behalf of a trust established in the name of Randy Wolfe, an American songwriter whose group Spirit performed with Led Zeppelin several decades earlier.

At trial, Mr. Malofiy argued that Led Zeppelin stole elements of a 1968 Spirit song, “Taurus” to craft the iconic acoustic guitar riff heard at the start of “Stairway to Heaven.” A jury deliberated for five hours before finding Led Zeppelin not guilty of copyright infringement, in turn prompting the publisher to file a motion for fees and costs.

Although the judge routinely scolded Mr. Malofiy over his conduct at trial — and at one point rebuked the attorney for “wasting a lot of time” — he wrote that he disagreed that his arguments were either meritless or made in bad faith and refused to award the publisher around $613,000 in attorneys’ fees and $180,000 in other costs.

“Once the media hype and tangential distractions are stripped away, what remains is an objectively reasonable claim motivated by a desire to recognize [Wolfe’s] musical contribution,” Judge Klausner wrote.

“The claim survived a summary judgment motion and proceeded to a hard-fought trial where a jury found for Plaintiff on ownership and access, but ultimately rendered a verdict for Defendants based on a lack of substantial similarity,” he added.

At the same time, Judge Klausner used the opportunity to once again chide Mr. Malofiy, responding to the motion by accusing the attorney of having a “tenuous grasp of legal ethics and a rudimentary understanding of courtroom decorum.”

Representatives for Warner/Chappell did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Michael Skidmore, the trustee for the late Spirit songwriter, appealed the jury’s verdict with the 9th Circuit in July.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide