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$613K Attorneys’ Fees Sought in Led Zep Case

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Warner/Chappell Music asked for $613,000 in attorneys' fees Thursday, for defending Led Zeppelin against "Stairway to Heaven" plagiarism claims — and accused the attorney who filed the case of "gross misconduct."

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant won a six-day trial in June, when a jury found they did not lift a guitar riff for "Stairway to Heaven" from a little-known, late 1960s rock song called "Taurus," by Los Angeles-based band Spirit.

On Thursday, publisher Warner/Chappell Music asked the Federal Court for $613,471 in attorneys' fees, citing "extensive and ongoing litigation misconduct," taking direct aim at Francis Malofiy, who represented plaintiff Michael Skidmore in his case against Page and Plant.

Warner/Chappell claims, among other things, that Malofiy began by filing the complaint in the wrong court, in Pennsylvania, and that his misconduct continued throughout the trial in Los Angeles.

It has been a rough few weeks for the Media, Penn.-based attorney, who last week was suspended for misconduct in a prior copyright infringement case against Usher's "Bad Girl."

In a scorching footnote in its July 7 motion, Warner/Chappell says: "Plaintiff's Philadelphia counsel's misconduct in this case is a continuation of the misconduct that earned him a substantial monetary sanction as well as a three-months-and-a-day suspension in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. ('Throughout this copyright litigation, plaintiff's counsel, Francis Malofiy, has behaved in a flagrantly unprofessional and offensive manner.') Plaintiff, having chosen his Philadelphia counsel despite the charges and pending suspension, ratified his counsel's ongoing misconduct in this action." (Citations omitted.)

Warner/Chappell claims that Skidmore, through his counsel, filed thousands of documents "that no reasonable person could believe would be admissible" and renumbered exhibits "causing confusion throughout the trial."

Among other sins, the publisher says, Malofiy played jurors a recorded interview of Led Zeppelin bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, which he said was recorded in 1972, just after "Stairway to Heaven" was written, though "in truth" it was recorded 20 years later.

Malofiy also showed the jury a photo that was "altered to omit two people and create the false impression that Robert Plant was speaking with [former Spirit bass player] Mark Andes," to try to show that Plant had access to the "Taurus" song, the Thursday memo states.

Warner/Chappell says the court should award it attorney fees to "encourage and reward the litigation of a meritorious defense."

"Defendants — faced with plaintiff's ongoing misconduct and objectively unreasonable positions — triumphed against plaintiff's claims for permanent injunctive relief that would have deprived the public of the 'Stairway to Heaven' musical composition, recordings and sheet music," the filing states.

Page and Plant are represented by Peter Anderson, of Santa Monica.

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