Music Industry

The Final Word on the Led Zeppelin Plagiarism Trial and Then We Shall Speak of It No More.

It’s over. A jury said that Led Zeppelin did not infringe in any way on Spirit’s “Taurus” for guitar bits in “Stairway to Heaven.” Both songs were built of the same stuff but were not the same. This is important. If we went after every song that sounded like another one, billions of dollars would be flowing to blues performers of the 1920s.

Remember, it’s not enough to say “Hey, THAT song sounds just like THIS one.” Western music is built on a finite series of chord progressions. Song titles cannot be copyrighted. Beats and rhythms cannot be copyrighted. For a legal rip-off to have occurred, you have to prove that someone had access to a prior work and willfully stole it, passing it off as their own.  (This Ottawa Citizen article forwarded by Christopher highlights the problem of unconscious copying.)

“Stairway” and “Taurus” are not the same. Guitarist Rick Emmett nails it in this CBC interview. This should be required viewing for anyone who emails me about similar-sounding songs.

Got it? Now go outside and play.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38170 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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