Folk Singer Just Notices That Led Zeppelin May Have Copied His Song Forty Years Ago

from the a-bit-late-there dept

Reader Tim DiPaula alerts us to the news that folks singer Jake Holmes is suing Jimmy Page for copyright infringement, claiming that the Led Zeppelin song “Dazed and Confused” is a copy of his own song, of the same name, recorded two years earlier. The TMZ link above has clips from both songs, which certainly have some pretty serious similarities. But what’s really amazing, of course, is that Holmes recorded his song in 1967, and Zeppelin did their song in 1969. And Holmes is just noticing now? TMZ notes that copyright law has a three year statute of limitation, saying that this lawsuit can only cover damages from the last three years. But, of course, as with all things copyright law related, it might not be that simple. The courts have been somewhat divided on this, but some interpret the law to say exactly what TMZ says — that it will only cover infringement from the past three years. However, others have interpreted it to mean that it’s only three years from the last infringing act. So as long as infringement has been happening all along… some courts will cover that entire period. Of course, you might think that regardless of the statute of limitations issues, Page has a pretty damn good laches claim. Forty plus years to bring the lawsuit? Yeah, the courts might not like that very much.

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Comments on “Folk Singer Just Notices That Led Zeppelin May Have Copied His Song Forty Years Ago”

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Anonymous Coward says:

this one is a fail is so many ways. mostly waiting 40 years to get around to it. it is not like the led zep song was not wildly popular and well known, a staple item of pretty much every concert they gave from day 1 until the untimely death of drummer John Bonham in 1980. you would have had to have been hiding under a musical rock not to hear this song at some point over that time.

i expect something like a summary dismissal as ‘too late’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Zeppelin lifted a LOT of musical ideas back then with people they originally toured with when they were still a new band. Some songs like “Stairway” have nearly identical chord progressions and appregio passages as other songs. So Holmes is probably right. But way too late to make accusations 40 years later.

kid mercury (profile) says:

Re: Re:

yup, led zeppelin is likely to be the biggest thieves in musical history. and i’m not referring to borrowing a chord progression or two, or being inspired by some techniques….this is outright theft, inexcusable even to creative commons, open systems loving people like myself. page and plant are great performers, but as for their compositional capabilities…..seems like they come up mostly empty on that front.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

I honestly thought it was pretty common knowledge that most of the songs on the first Zep album are “stolen” — the whole point of that album wasn’t songwriting, it was the crazy original style of arrangement and production that really defined the “psychedelic rock” sound.

I’ve heard people bitching that the songs aren’t theirs for years and years. How is this guy just finding out about it now?

interval (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Howard Stern made a big deal of this about two or three years ago on his Sirius Show. I’m not sure, but even if you don’t listen to satellite radio or are not a Stern fan others have noticed the similarities between Zep and other artists’ songs. AND take away the point that artists have ripped off from other artists since the history of art; Holmes is JUST NOW getting around to taking back what is “his”? Where does the guy live? In a cave in a remote desert island? Maybe he was the last person to ever talk to Amelia Earhart…

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“it was the crazy original style of arrangement and production that really defined the “psychedelic rock” sound.”

I’m not so sure that Led Zep I did anything of the sort, to tell you the truth. Psychedlia was well established before the album appeared in North America.

What the record did do was to establish the sound of heavy British blues, something The Yardbirds had failed at. To some degree they defined it.

Along with the sound and playing of The Kinks and The Who, Led Zeppelin would serve as a model for what became Heavy Metal. For example Deep Purple got it’s start as a blues band similar to Zep.

Anonymous Coward says:

oh, let me add this (from wiki, but its is pretty relevant):

“”Dazed and Confused” is arguably the album’s centerpiece: a foreboding arrangement featuring a descending bass line from Jones, heavy drumming from Bonham and some powerful guitar riffs and soloing from Page. It also showcased Page playing guitar with a violin bow (an idea suggested by David McCallum Sr., whom Page had met while doing studio session work).[17] The bowed guitar in the middle section of the song brought psychedelic rock to experimental new heights, especially in extended stage versions, building on Page’s earlier renderings of the song during the latter days of The Yardbirds. “Dazed and Confused” would become Led Zeppelin’s signature performance piece for years to come.”

the yardbirds date back to the mid 60s, well before the date this guy claims the song. want to bet he spent a little time listening to the yardbirds?

Kate Ebneter says:

Re: Re:

Actually, pretty much the entire music industry has known for 40+ years that “Dazed and Confused” was lifted almost intact from Jake Holmes. The question in my mind is, indeed, why in the hell he’s only suing _now_? He could have sued ages and ages ago and he had then a _very_ strong claim. This is just weird.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually the blues scene in England had been around quite a while before Zeppelin appeared on the scene.

The earliest edition of the John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers was in 1961 or 62 (I think) and that collection featured the likes of Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and others before Paige joined up. (Also Mick Fleetwood & John MacVie)

So Paige, as a player has a good pedigree. On the other hand the Bluesbreakers were largely a cover band so songwriting wasn’t a strong point of that “school”.

(The Stones were heavily influenced by the London based British Blues movement,too.)

The songwriter was likely just as influenced by the Bluesbreakers as he was by The Yardbirds, all of whom were Bluesbreakers grads themselves.

rifferama says:

I think the contributor who suggested that this might be engineered by parties with soon-to-be-executory interests is on the right train of thought. My variation is the suspicion that Jake Holmes’ works may soon be reissued, either as individual discs or as a box set (the last available versions I’m aware of were bootlegs on the Radioactive label). This *might* simply be preliminary promotion 101.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

not so fast there roger ramjet.
there are stories as far back as 2001 about this issue where this guy has been trying to get something done on this.

yes, we are still talking a very lengthy amount of time in that case, but over the last 9 years there are stories about this? with no way of knowing if there are any requests that predate these stories?

clearly does not paint a picture of an almost dead musician whose family is just trying to get a quick payday. that may be playing a minor role in this, but i really dont think thats all there is to it.

i also really dont think they are going to get very far with a lawsuit since page has pretty much admitted that he changed enough to get around the existing copyright laws at the time to not allow for a plagiarism suit… but im not the lawyer so dunno how that would be handled today.

eric (user link) says:

oh, come on, everyone knew this.

it’s true, the book Hammer of the Gods does cover this. But as documented there, Jake Holmes knew they stole it when he saw them live not too long after Page saw him perform the song in a bar. Holmes made no qualms about it — he said he was going to let them have the song and that there was no harm in it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright vs Plagiarism

Can someone with legal knowledge explain how plagiarism is considered as a copyright issue?
I thought the copyright only covers the expression of the work (recording, musical score etc). So even if Led Zeppelin did plagiarise the song, as long as they recorded themselves playing it they were not infringing on the copyright of the original recording.

Kate Ebneter says:

Re: Copyright vs Plagiarism

Holmes wrote the music and the lyrics, and they are covered by copyright.

Zep could have recorded the song and given him credit, paying him writer’s royalties, of course. What they did instead was claim that _they_ wrote the song. So all the royalties (performance and writing) went to them.

They did this to a lot of old blues musicians, too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Copyright vs Plagiarism

The music and lyrics were covered by copyright in the form that they were fixed in. Zep didn’t copy that, they recreated it. So I don’t see how their version infringed on the copyright of the original.

They might have plagiarised the song and should have credited Holmes and paid royalties, but I don’t see how this situation is considered copyright infringement.

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