Led Zeppelin publishers Warner/Chappell Music have lost a legal battle to recoup nearly $800,000 in attorneys' fees for successfully defending the band in the recent "Stairway To Heaven" copyright infringement lawsuit.
A claim that the acoustic introduction to 1971’s “Stairway” was lifted from Spirit’s 1968 instrumental, “Taurus”, was brought by Randy California's estate and members of the band by trustee Michael Skidmore, with a jury clearing Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of any wrongdoing.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Judge R. Gary Klausner denied Led Zeppelin’s request to have their legal bills paid for by Skidmore in a ruling in Los Angeles federal court on Monday.
In his analysis of the factors determining whether an award of fees is appropriate, Klausner found that the litigation misconduct by Skidmore’s attorney Francis Malofiy during the trial – which resulted in more than 100 sustained objections – clearly weighed in the publisher's favor, as did the need for compensation because their insurance company declined to cover the lawsuit since it spawned from a decades-old claim.
However, Klausner also found Skidmore's lawsuit was not frivolous or objectively unreasonable and he appeared to have honorable motivation in bringing the suit, which ultimately carried more weight.
"Once the media hype and tangential distractions are stripped away, what remains is an objectively reasonable claim motivated by a desire to recognize Randy California’s musical contribution," Klausner writes. "The claim survived a summary judgment motion and proceeded to a hard-fought trial where a jury found for Plaintiff on ownership and access, but ultimately rendered a verdict for Defendants based on a lack of substantial similarity."
Late last month, Malofiy filed an appeal in the copyright infringement lawsuit.
“Stairway To Heaven” appeared on the UK band’s 1971 album, “Led Zeppelin IV.”
One of the best-selling albums in music history, the project went on to sell more than 37 million copies worldwide, including 23 million in the US alone.
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