1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Rock Follies? heavy metal copying claims rock on

The dust has yet to settle on the 'Blurred Lines' litigation in the USA - with a review of the damages awarded to the Gaye family, a revised settlement, an injunction against Pharrell and Robin Thicke, a new trial and/or an appeal are all being mooted, who wrote what remains a big question, as does the the difference between appropriation and inspiration: the recent settlement by Sam Smith and his co-writers with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne over allegations that "Stay With Me" plagiarised "I Wont Back Down" just adds to this confused conundrum, as does the recent news that Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have added the five members of the Gap Band as co-writers of "Uptown Funk" because of similarities to 'Ooops Upside Your Head". Now its the turn of heavy metal:

The lawsuit  brought by the trustee of the late Randy California claiming that Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' was plagiarised from an obscure song 'Taurus' by the band Spirit has survived its first legal challenge.  In 1969, Spirit and Led Zeppelin shared the bill at several concerts. U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez has now refused to dismiss the claim. If the suit succeeds, a three-year statute of limitations would limit the award to the most recent earnings. Judge Sanchez said he declined to dismiss the suit "in the interest of justice," because the improper venue could be fixed by sending the case to California. As to the location of any trial, in his order, he said the Led Zeppelin members weren't subject to jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, in part because they don't live there and hadn't appeared to specifically target the district for selling their music. Guitarist Jimmy Page had dismissed the claim as “ridiculous” but added nothing more. Before he died 1997, Spirit guitarist Randy California told a reporter: “I’d say it was a rip off. And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you’, never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.” 'Stairway To Heaven' is said to be one of the most covered rock songs and its worth is estimated to be more than $560 million. Francis Malofiy, the lawyer for the late singer's estate, said, "Attribution is the most important thing'' adding  "What we want is for credit to be given where it's due. I'm a fan of Led Zeppelin, but in this situation, we want credit for Randy.''

The internet has been buzzing with comments of the similarities between Guns N' Roses' most enduring song - 1987's 'Sweet Child O' Mine' - and Australian Crawl's 1981 song 'Unpublished Critics', from their album Sirocco. Now this may well NOT be copied - but blimey, and as one commentator said - it really does have "the same chugging chord progression, a similarly-sweeping lead break, the verse melody, and the elongated one-syllable vocal in the chorus."  You can hear and compare the tracks on this webpage.



And more on Francis Malofiy, the attorney acting for Randy California and   can be found here


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