Late last month, a Los Angeles jury ruled that the members of Led Zeppelin didn’t copy Spirit’s song “Taurus” when they wrote the iconic opening of “Stairway To Heaven.” But it’s an old adage in the music business (or, at least, it will be now): Nobody crosses Led Zeppelin for free.
According to Billboard, the band’s publisher, Warner/Chappell Music is now seeking to recoup $800,000 in legal fees from Michael Skidmore, the man who brought the case on behalf of Spirit member Randy Wolfe. The demands are expected to serve as the first major test of a recent Supreme Court decision that ruled that plaintiffs in copyright cases could be hit with semi-punitive legal fees for claims on the basis of “frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness, and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence.” (Presumably, if you’re basing your income on royalties from Spirit album sales, $800,000 is one hell of a deterrent.)
But even more than setting a legal precedent, the claims seem to boil down to Skidmore’s former attorney, Francis Malofiy, being kind of a dick about the whole “suing Led Zeppelin” thing. Representatives from Warner/Chappell say that Malofiy broke procedure with such courtroom shenanigans as “resistance to discovery, ignoring pre-trial rulings barring certain evidence, misrepresenting evidence at trial” and taking to the courthouse steps to tell TV cameras that any money his client won would be “used to buy musical instruments for children who are in need in Ventura County.” Malofiy has since been dismissed, but it remains to be seen whether his antics will lead his former client to take up residence in The Houses Of The Holy Shit, Led Zeppelin’s Publisher Took All My Cash.
NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly claimed that lawyers representing Led Zeppelin were requesting the legal fees. The claim is actually being made by Warner/Chappell.