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Led Zepp won’t get legal costs covered despite success in song-theft case

By | Published on Tuesday 9 August 2016

Led Zeppelin

A US court has ruled that the Wolfe Trust which pursued the plagiarism case against Led Zeppelin does not have to pay the winning side’s legal fees.

As previously reported, the Wolfe Trust, which benefits from the estate of the late Randy Wolfe, aka Randy California, unsuccessfully sued Led Zeppelin. It claimed that ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was a rip off of Wolfe’s song ‘Taurus’. But the jury hearing the case decided that the two songs were not sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement.

Having successfully defeated the lawsuit, Led Zeppelin and their publisher Warner/Chappell sought to have their legal costs covered by the Trust, based on the argument that the entire case was “frivolous” and should never have been pursued in the first place. Warner also argued that the Wolfe Trust’s Michael Skidmore and his lead attorney, Francis Malofiy, were guilty of “extensive and ongoing litigation misconduct”, which pro-longed the case and added to the cost of fighting the action.

But the judge who oversaw the case, R Gary Klausner, despite frequently seeming exasperated with Malofiy during the court proceedings, has ruled that the Wolfe Trust’s case was not frivolous, the plaintiffs did not have “nefarious motives”, and Skidmore’s lawsuit had sufficient merit for the case to go to full trial in the first place. Therefore, the judge concluded, there wasn’t a case for forcing the Trust to pay the defence’s fees.

Though Klausner did nevertheless get in a little diss in against Malofiy who, as previously reported, was banned from practicing law in Pennsylvania for three months after the Led Zeppelin case ended, albeit in relation to his conduct in another copyright case. Klausner said of the attorney: “Throughout the course of litigation, plaintiff’s counsel demonstrated a tenuous grasp of legal ethics and a rudimentary understanding of courtroom decorum”.

As also previously reported, Skidmore is already appealing the ruling in the song-theft case. If there is a round two, and if Malofiy is involved, perhaps he should read up on some legal ethics and courtroom decorum. Though if the defendants have to shell out more of their own money to defend themselves, maybe Malofiy shouldn’t change one bit. At least that way the court case is more entertaining, meaning the defendants get a bit of courtroom comedy in return for their investment.