Copyright, Intellectual Property, Lawsuit of the Day, Music

Did Led Zeppelin Steal Music From Someone Other Than Robert Johnson?

Recently benchslapped attorney Francis Malofiy has hopped right back on that horse and followed through on his threat and filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin, alleging they stole the guitar riff from Stairway to Heaven.

Apparently, Malofiy failed to take to heart the admonitions of the judge in the Usher case, because this complaint also plays fast and loose with traditional formatting.

So what’s the bustle in this guy’s hedgerow?

If you’re anything like me, when you think of Led Zeppelin, one riff immediately comes to mind.

Oops. Not that story (and if you don’t know what that story is, click the link and enjoy your nightmare fuel).

But if you haven’t been following the story about the famous Stairway to Heaven riff, Malofiy and his client, the trustee for the heirs of musician Randy California, made some noise a few weeks ago about Led Zeppelin having stole Stairway to Heaven from Randy California’s band Spirit. While Spirit isn’t as famous today as Led Zeppelin, in the late 60s, Led Zeppelin used to open for Spirit. In the words of the complaint, the members of Led Zeppelin were “[n]ot yet immortal rock legends.” Here’s the song in question, Taurus. The allegedly infringing part starts around 50 seconds in:

I leave it to you to decide if that’s stealing. Still, of all the legal trouble to get leveled against Led Zeppelin, it’s crazy to think “used a similar guitar riff” is a bigger deal than “kidnapping a 14-year-old girl.”

At least Malofiy doesn’t call Led Zeppelin “Cry Babies” like he called the defendants in the Usher suit. Still, Malofiy’s decision to go crazy with downloadable fonts while drafting a court filing proves he’s still got the “inexperience” and “need of a “mentor” we read about in the Usher decision. As the Hollywood Reporter remarks, Malofiy “is apparently unaware of the rash of copyright cases targeting font infringement.” Here’s the title of the complaint:

He even signs the thing with a weird symbol like he’s trying to be a Zeppelin fanboy with a personal sigil. Is it possible this guy just sues musicians so he can hang out with them at depositions like some kind of lawyer groupie? If so, beware when they mark the mudshark exhibit, buddy.

The whole complaint is available on the next page if you want to peruse….

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