The “Stairway To Heaven” case is the tip of the iceberg for cases like this.
Mark my words, Metallica (or the corporations who will own the Metallica copyrights in the years ahead) will be sued for plagiarism by the corporations and heirs of artists from the NWOBHM movement that Metallica used on their first three albums, and the California skate-punk band they ripped off for “Enter Sandman”.
Remember Copyright was designed to encourage creativity, but in the hands of corporations and heirs of the actual creators (who never should have held the Copyright of a deceased artist), copyright is now building up to have the opposite effect, “discouraging, rather than stimulating, music creativity.”
As the Conversation article states;
“I don’t think that it is appropriate to consider the act of devising a tune that simply has the same “feel” and “groove” as another as copyright infringement. This is how music creativity often works. Musicians frequently build upon earlier arrangements and styles, and so the increasing occurrence of cases such as these should give us pause.”
“Borrowing from earlier pieces is a structural element of music creation in many genres (a tune cannot always be created from scratch by just improvising). Classical music composers such as Handel, Beethoven, Shubert, Mozart, Bach and Puccini all significantly borrowed from earlier colleagues. The same holds true for jazz (which has built upon popular music and opera), rockabilly (influenced by country), rhythm and blues (which derives from boogie-woogie and gospel) and the Jamaican music scene (where traditionally covering and arranging each other’s tunes was widespread and largely accepted).”
Now, the term “original” means “not the same as anything or anyone else and therefore special and interesting”. It would be difficult to find a musician who has never listened to music written by someone else.
And yes, there are artists that did do something that “sounded not like anything else”, however if you take away the sonics, the root notes of every song are tied back to a composition that came before it and so forth. Even the evil sounding tri-tone made famous in the song “Black Sabbath” has its roots to classical music. The whole British Rock invasion of the Sixties was tied to the American blues of the Thirties.
It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of music out there is unoriginal.
Just think of how many metal and hard rocks songs have a riff over an A pedal point or an E pedal point that sounds similar in feel and groove?
But for some reason, our litigious society wants music to follow the same citing mechanisms as a University essay, with citations, footnotes and a discography of music used as an influence for the song.
At the root of it all is the descending bass line, played in the same key and an attorney called Francis Malofiy, who is well-known at bringing copyright infringement suits against any song that sounds similar to another because the acts/estates he represents are so original and their music could not have been influenced by other .
It’s easy to sue Led Zeppelin, because others have done it and its well-known that Jimmy Page likes to build on past works. But man, Led Zeppelin, actually Page and Plant in particular can sue a whole generation of artists for copying their feel and groove.
Let’s start with the most obvious (of the top of my head);
- Robert Plant to sue David Coverdale from Whitesnake for copying Plant’s vocal feel in every Whitesnake song between 1978 and 1982.
- Robert Pant to sue Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come for copying Plant’s vocal feel and phrasing in every Kingdom Song between 1988 and 2016.
- Jimmy Page to sue Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come for copying “Kashmir” and calling the song “Get It On”.
- Robert Plant to sue Randy Jackson from Zebra for copying Plant’s vocal feel
- Jimmy Page and the Bonham estate to sue Coheed and Cambria for the song “Welcome Home” because it sounds a lot like “Kashmir” and for the drums having the same feel and groove as “Kashmir”.
- Jimmy Page suing Tool because songs on “Aenima” sound a lot like “No Quarter”.
- Jimmy Page and Robert Plant suing Billy Squier for the verse in “You Should Be High Lover” because it sounds a lot like “Black Dog”.
- Jimmy Page and Robert Plant suing Wolfmother for the song “Woman”.
- Jimmy Page suing Jet, for the song “Cold Hard Bitch” and how it sounds a lot like “Communication Breakdown”.
- Jimmy Page suing Soundgarden for “Pretty Noose” because it sounds like the love child of “Kashmir” and “Whole Lotta Love”.
- Jimmy Page suing Steve Vai for a three note sequence in his song “The Attitude Song” that is derived from “The Ocean”.
See the absurdity of it all.
I am sure there are a million bands out there that have ripped off Led Zeppelin and there are a million acts that Led Zeppelin has ripped off. But Led Zeppelin made what came before, BETTER and made a lot of MONEY from it.