UPDATE, 10/20/14: Maybe not so bonkers. A U.S. District Court judge today handed a first-round loss to Led Zeppelin by denying their jurisdictional challenge, which means the case can move forward. More details at the Hollywood Reporter.
ORIGINAL: In mid-May, Media-based attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy (pictured, from his website) got his name in print quite a bit when he turned up internationally in the press, threatening a copyright lawsuit against Led Zeppelin over “Stairway to Heaven.” Since then, he’s actually filed the suit, and it’s a doozy, and not just because its claims are totally ridiculous.
The federal suit, filed in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania (aka that ugly brown building down at the corner of 6th and Market), alleges that Led Zeppelin founders Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stole the introduction of their most famous song — we are, of course, talking about “Stairway to Heaven” — from the California-based band Spirit, with whom Led Zeppelin toured in the late ’60s.
The Spirit song in question is “Taurus,” an under-three-minute instrumental that the band released in 1968 and that you almost certainly never would have heard if not for this lawsuit. Page and Plant were likely familiar with the tune. Here it is for your listening pleasure.
Is there a faint whiff of “Stairway” in there? Absolutely. That’s hard to deny. Starting at 0:45, an acoustic guitar begins a three-measure arpeggiated descent very similar to the acoustic guitar descent that opens “Stairway to Heaven.” But plagiarism and copyright infringement? That’s a major stretch.
Malofiy, who was recently sanctioned by a judge for his behavior in a suit he’s filed against Usher, filed the “Stairway” lawsuit on behalf of Michael Skidmore, trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, named after the Spirit frontman, who died in 1997.
Some notable facts, allegations, and demonstrations of Malofiy’s penchant for flair from the suit:
• Under “Causes of Action” on the cover page of the complaint, Malofiy lists “Falsification of Rock N’ Roll History,” in addition to copyright infringement.
• For the section headers in the complaint, Malofiy uses a font that any Led Zeppelin fan would quickly recognize:
• Where most attorneys title the opening section of their complaint “Introduction,” Malofiy goes for “Preamble.”
• He has the gall to claim that Spirit “pioneered the psychedelic rock sound.” Not “helped to pioneer.” But “pioneered.”
• Malofiy includes a list of occasions when Led Zeppelin has been accused of “lifting” their songs from other writers:
Malofiy has not responded to a request for comment.
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