LOS ANGELES (CN) — First Led Zeppelin was going to show and then it looked like they wouldn’t. Now, the surviving members of the band have said they will fly to LA next month to defend against claims that they ripped off parts of “Stairway to Heaven” from another song.
Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bass player John Paul Jones all plan to appear during the jury trial in downtown Los Angeles next month, despite an attorney’s claim that they are “hiding out in the hills,” the band said in court papers filed this week in federal court.
The legendary rock band is challenging the 2014 claims of Randy Craig Wolfe Trust trustee Michael Skidmore that “Stairway to Heaven” infringes on the song “Taurus,” created by Wolfe and his band Spirit in 1967.
A witness list obtained by Courthouse News last month stated that Page, Plant and Jones would take the stand to talk about how they wrote the epic song and explain how it was created independently of “Taurus.”
At a hearing last month, Skidmore’s attorney Francis Malofiy told U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner that the three men were refusing to attend and said outside the courtroom that they were “hiding behind counsel in the U.K.”
Malofiy then filed a May 17 motion to compel the band’s attendance and appearance.
This week, the band poured hot water on speculation that they would not show up, calling Malofiy’s claims “pure fiction” to create negative press ahead of the trial.
“Plaintiff’s motion is a PR stunt in the hope of tainting the jury pool,” the band said in an opposition filed on Tuesday.
The band says that Malofiy made the statements to create a “flurry of press reports repeating plaintiff’s false accusation” and that when the story “died down” the attorney “triggered renewed reports of his misrepresentation by now filing a belated motion that is so devoid of merit it can only be seen as playing to the press.”
The band goes on to state that it has confirmed that its surviving members will appear but that Malofiy, “more interested in the press reporting his false assertions, refuses to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”
In a footnote, the band said that “there simply is no merit to plaintiff’s attempt to pursue a 45-year-old claim that the actual copyright owner and Randy Wolfe never bothered to file.
“Importantly, however, that the individuals have committed to appear is not grounds to issue an order that they do so: that would allow plaintiff to claim he forced them to testify at trial and perpetuate the false story he seeks to use to taint the jury pool.”
The band attached to the filing an April 14 email from their attorney Peter Anderson to Malofiy in which he signals that the band members will appear, even though they are “outside the court’s subpoena power.”
“But I do expect them to appear to testify, if that’s any help,” Anderson wrote.
In a May 6 email, Anderson again confirmed that he expects the band to make an appearance.
“As an example, only, we have previously made it clear that Messrs. Page and Plant will attend the trial, but with them coming from England we cannot guarantee the day they will arrive,” Anderson wrote. “As for Mr. Jones, he was granted summary judgment and is no longer a defendant in the case, although we expect him to testify as a defense witness.”
Klausner ordered a May jury trial after ruling that elements of “Stairway” are substantially similar to “Taurus” under copyright law. But the judge later rescheduled and the trial is slated to begin June 14 at 9:00 a.m.
Even though the songs are decades old, the lawsuit survived a move by Zeppelin’s attorneys to throw it out after Klausner found that a remastered version of “Stairway” was released in 2014.
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