A Brief History Of Copyright Litigation About Popular Songs

Many of our readers may have read with interest the recent media about the copyright litigation concerning Led Zeppelin’s iconic “Stairway to Heaven” where the owners of the rights to a song entitled “Taurus” put out by the 60s band Spirit have sued Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement by the song “Stairway to Heaven.”  This is just the latest in a long line of lawsuits involving alleged infringement and plagiarism of the rights to popular songs.  Accusations of musical plagiarism are a recurring phenomenon, but only rarely end up being heard in formal legal proceedings. Many readers will remember the 2015 case where a jury awarded damages of $7.2 million against Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams for infringing the copyright in Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”  These artists settled out of court because their songs too closely resembled songs by other artists:

 The Doors’ “Hello I Love You” (1968) – The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” (1965).

Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (1969) – Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love” (1962).

George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (1970) – The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” (1962).

Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (1978) – Jorge Ben’s “Taj Mahal” (1972).

Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” (1980) – Keith Jarrett’s “Long As You Know You’re Living Yours” (1974).

Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” (1984) – Huey Lewis & The News’ “I Want a New Drug” (1984).

Hootie & The Blowfish’s “Tangled Up in Blue” (1995) – Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” (1975).

Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” (1997) – Des’ree’s “Feels So High” (1991).

The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” (1998) – The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” (1965).

Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” (2007) – The Rubinoos’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (1979).

Here are some sound-alike songs where copying has been rumored but have not resulted in formal legal cases:

Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (1970) – Moby Grape’s “Never” (1968)

Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (1974) – Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father” (1964)

Steve Miller Band’s “Rock n’ Me” (1976) – Free’s “Alright Now” (1970)

The Eagles’ “Hotel California” (1976) – Jethro Tull’s “We Used to Know” (1969)

Robbie Dupree’s “Steal Away” (1980) – The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” (1979)

Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” (1987) – Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” (1986)

R.E.M.’s “Hope” (1998) – Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” (1968)

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” (2006) – Tom Petty “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (1993)

Bruce Springsteen’s “Radio Nowhere” (2007) – Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” (1982)

Prince’s “Guitar” (2007) – U2’s “I Will Follow” (1980)

 

Given the enduring popularity of “Stairway to Heaven,” the potential infringement damages could be massive – it will be interesting to see if Led Zeppelin chooses to litigate or settle out of court.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: