Led Zeppelin Stairway To Heaven trial result is injustice says losing lawyer

John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page all attended court (Image credit: Getty)

The lawyer who stood against Led Zeppelin in the trial over Stairway To Heaven has called the result an “injustice.”

A Los Angeles jury yesterday unanimously decided that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had not plagiarised Spirit track Taurus in the opening phrase of their 1971 classic.

But Francis Malofiy – who conducted the case for the estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy California – believes the band won the copyright case “on a technicality” and that the result would have been different if he’d been allowed to play the two songs in court.

Judge Gary Klausner refused to permit playback, saying that US copyright law rests on registered sheet music rather than any recording.

Malofiy tells Rolling Stone: “Justice is about the search for truth. It escaped us. Led Zeppelin won on a technicality – they should be proud of that.

“The jury’s verdict is largely determined by one ruling of the court: Plaintiff was not permitted to play the album recording of Taurus, which Jimmy Page had in his record collection.

“This ruling effectively tied our hands behind our back. We do not believe it is legally correct or logically sound.”

He adds that, instead of being able to compare recordings of Stairway and Taurus, the eight-person jury instead “heard a very basic piece of sheet music that no one, including Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, had ever seen.”

But he continues: “It is important to realise that the jury agreed that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant has access to Taurus, and discounted their denials that they had never heard Taurus.”

And he argues: “For Led Zeppelin the case was about their legacy and reputation. For Randy California it was about credit. In this regard, neither party won. Here there was injustice.”

Malofiy has indicated he may appeal the ruling. But legal expert Robert Jacobs tells Billboard: “The law is well settled that you’re stuck with what the Copyright Office got. That’s just the way it is.”

And music litigator William Hochberg says: “I think it would be a waste of time and money. I would suggest that they think long and hard about whether they really want to go forward with an appeal.”

In a statement released after the trial, Led Zeppelin said: “We are grateful for the jury’s conscientious service and pleased that it has ruled in our favour, putting to rest questions about the origins of Stairway To Heaven and confirming what we have known for 45 years. We appreciate our fans’ support and look forward to putting this legal matter behind us.”

Led Zeppelin: a timeline of the Stairway To Heaven trial

Jimmy Page: ‘How Led Zeppelin made Stairway To Heaven’ – video interview

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Not only is one-time online news editor Martin an established rock journalist and drummer, but he’s also penned several books on music history, including SAHB Story: The Tale of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, a band he once managed, and the best-selling Apollo Memories about the history of the legendary and infamous Glasgow Apollo. Martin has written for Classic Rock and Prog and at one time had written more articles for Louder than anyone else (we think he's second now). He’s appeared on TV and when not delving intro all things music, can be found travelling along the UK’s vast canal network.