The recent Led Zeppelin “plagiarism trial” made massive headlines, especially when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were completely cleared of “stealing” the riff for their classic song ‘Stairway To Heaven’, and now Francis Malofiy, the lawyer who unsuccessfully sued Led Zep over the matter, has been suspended from practising law.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Malifoy allegedly violated “various rules of conduct” during a copyright infringement trial involving a track by R&B singer Usher called ‘Bad Girl’ and subsequently on Thursday last week, 30th July 2016, a judicial panel upheld a three month recommended suspension.
During the Usher case in 2014 Malofiy was repeatedly slammed by Judge Paul Diamond for his alleged “abusive” and “flagrantly unprofessional” behaviour and was slammed with sanctions and forced to pay $28,000 legal costs. In response, the maverick lawyer denied any wrongdoing and also argued the prospective punishment was too severe but a district court disagreed and upheld the proposed suspension.
Malofiy was heated in his attacks on Led Zeppelin while representing the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe (Randy California) at one point dubbing them “session musicians” who have a habit of “playing other people’s music”.
He also asked Jimmy Page when he was on the stand if he was able to read and write music to which one of the world’s greatest ever guitarists and composers replied: “To a degree.”
A prolonged conversation about the musical structure, rhythms, arpeggiation and chording of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ found the guitarist often confused by Malofiy’s queries. Another entertaining moment occurred when Malofiy played the Mary Poppins tune ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ from the Disney film to discuss its use by Page as a potential inspiration for ‘Stairway…’ causing the rock legend to smile broadly.
Malofiy. Not going to California to practice law…
Malofiy’s rambling and pauses caused Judge Klausner to exclaim “you’re wasting a lot of time”, a refrain that would be repeated throughout Malofiy’s examinations.
He received over one hundred sustained objections and “multiple admonishments” during the Led Zeppelin trial from Judge Klausner as Led Zep were cleared of plagiarism on 23rd June when a jury of four men and four women in Los Angeles dismissed the case against them. The prosecution were seeking a one-third split of royalties citing similarities to Spirit’s 1968 instrumental track ‘Taurus’.
We believe that Randy California, who passed away in 1997, knew all about the similarities between the tracks and never instigated a lawsuit of any kind. We quote this because a MetalTalk associate who used to roadie for Randy back in the 70s told us that he (Randy) never believed Led Zep had copied his music.
Michael Skidmark is the man who sued on behalf of the late Randy Wolfe but the fact that this lawsuit was served forty-five years after the release of ‘Stairway…’ and nineteen years after Randy’s passing immediately dilutes it’s legitimacy.
After the jury ruled in Page and Plant’s favour, Malifoy said he lost on a technicality and hinted at an appeal but if Skidmark wants to appeal soon, Malofiy could be out of a job, as although Malofiy’s suspension is in Pennsylvania, being able to practice in California is dependent on “good standing” in another jurisdiction.
Skidmark could still appoint Glen Kulik, who served as local co-counsel in the original case, and could take the reins on an appeal, if it materialises.