Stairway to the courthouse: Philly lawyer wants to sue Led Zeppelin

John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin (Photo by Laurance Ratner/WireImage) John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin play in Milwaukee in the early 1970s. Credit: Getty Images

Francis Alexander Malofiy is the type of guy who keeps you on the phone for 10 minutes, listing all that he has to do, while telling you he doesn’t have time to talk.

While that’s usually an annoyance, in his case, the garrulous Media-based lawyer may not be kidding, considering how last week he became one of the most well-known litigators in the world due to two high profile cases pitting his Davids against the Goliaths of the music business.

The first case is his most famous: Malofiy’s intention to sue Led Zeppelin for allegedly plagiarizing the signature intro to 1971’s “Stairway to Heaven” from deceased Spirit guitarist/composer Randy California and his 1968 song “Taurus.” Malofiy also wants to prevent Rhino Records’ newly remixed “Led Zeppelin IV” reissue that “Stairway” resides on, until California is given writing credit. When asked via email if he’s heard from Zeppelin’s representatives, Malofiy claims “absolutely nothing … crickets.”

The second case garnered as much attention as the potential Zeppelin suit, but for the wrong reasons (so far): Malofiy client Dan Marino sued Usher and nineteen co-defendants (particularly Marino’s one-time songwriting partners William Guice and Dante Barton) for the threesome’s “Club Girl,” which eventually became Usher’s 2004 hit “Bad Girl.” Marino claims he never received his due in terms of credits or payment.

U.S.District JudgePaul Diamond ruled in favor of Usher and company and elaborated on Malofiy’s behavior (including Malofiy telling a rival lawyer, “Don’t be a girl about this” during deposition) and actions during the case itself. According to case notes, Judge Diamond issued memorandum opinions granting summary judgments for certain defendants (namely Guice who claims to have been wrongly coerced) and sanctions toward Malofiy for supposedly handling the suit “in a flagrantly unprofessional and offensive manner.” Malofiy is appealing both, because according to him, “the rulings are without legal merit and are premised upon gross distortions of the truth unsupported by the objective evidence in either matter.”

Though his website touts successes with medical malpractice suits, repeated phone and email inquiries regarding Malofiy’s personal background yielded little. Yet, he was clear about things in regards to his music-related cases. “First, it must be stressed there is no question that Marino is the true author of “Club Girl” and “Bad Girl,” claims Malofiy. “Judge Diamond himself acknowledges that in his opinion… Second, I disagree with Judge Diamond’s grant of sanctions. The Court made a mistake in this case.” Malofiy also states that said defendant was never misled about said lawyer’s representation of Marino, and provides transcribed phone conversations between himself and Guice as proof.

As for the Led Zeppelin vs. Spirit/California, he cites two precedents: the first, a well-known music biz secret: “this is hardly the first time Led Zeppelin has been accused of lifting their most famous songs,” cites Malofiy, mentioning “Whole Lotta Love,” and “The Lemon Song,” amongst others, adding that Zeppelin “settled those matters out of court.”

As for the fact Spirit’s “Taurus” came out in 1968 (the same year Zeppelin toured the US opening for Spirit) Malofiy points toward May 2014’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Petrella v. Metro Goldwyn Mayer, the “Raging Bull” case, where copyright infringement claims can be recovered after the statute of limitations.

Malofiy doesn’t dislike Usher or Zeppelin, a band whose talent is “boundless” in the lawyer’s non-legally-binding opinion. However, he believes, “Led Zeppelin needs to do the right thing and give credit where credit is due,” he asserts, about righting wrongs. “I take cases I believe in, where individuals have been hurt or trampled upon by big corporations, heartless insurance companies, or people in positions of power who use their power unjustly, taking advantage of the defenseless, the injured, or the damned.”

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