Is it plagiarism?

Johnny Blonde

Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2012
Messages
21
Reaction score
13
Location
Chapel Hill, N.C.
I watched a special on the making of Physical Graffiti over the weekend and a portion of it focused on how Zeppelin took old blues tunes and plagiarized these artists using the language “put their stamp on them”. I’ve heard this before, the latest being the Spirit/Stairway To Heaven lawsuit from a couple years back. The special played snippets of the original recordings first and then Zep’s recordings. It was to brief to hear a similarity other than similar words such as Neil Young’s “Down By The River” and “Down By The Seaside”, or the words “Custard Pie”.

So yesterday I listened to the full recordings and quite honestly I don’t hear plagiarized songs. Okay, maybe “Boogie With Stu” but that just seems like a jam based on an old rock tune they knew as teenagers that they did for fun and it turned into something they included. I genuinely don’t think that there is a running intent to rip off other artists. Blind Boy Fuller and Zeppelin using custard pie as a euphemism for two completely different sounding songs doesn’t seem to be plagiarism.

I may just not understand the intricacies of songwriting legalities, but blatant stealing I don’t hear.
 

ThomFloor

Very well Known Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2017
Messages
1,119
Reaction score
890
It gets into a great debate...who owns the riff? Nobody.
But when its key words with their phrasing, "Call me the hunter'' , "squeeze my lemon", 'you need loving' I'd say you are getting close to copying (words ripped by Led Zep and Free, Small Faces....and on) that by today's standards would end up in court.
I am a huge Led Zep fan, but admit many old blues artists had their material copied by that band and many others.
I could put many Chuck Berry songs in there as being ripped too. Different times.
 

Matched Gripper

DFO Master
Joined
May 28, 2019
Messages
3,360
Reaction score
3,058
I always thought Zep’s “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” and Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” shared an almost identical motif. The odd thing is that they came out at nearly the same time IIRC.

Beginning at 2:23:

Opening:
 

BennyK

DFO Star
Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
16,394
Reaction score
3,896
LZ 1 released Jan 12 /69

Chicago ll released Jan 26 / 70

Both share similarities with While my Guitar Gently Weeps , but if you listen to the fade out on Harrison's masterpiece ( you might need headphones ), you'll hear the Zep/ Chicago riff there .White Album released Nov. 22 / 68
 
Last edited:

Matched Gripper

DFO Master
Joined
May 28, 2019
Messages
3,360
Reaction score
3,058
LZ 1 released Jan 12 /69

Chicago ll released Jan 26 / 70

Both share similarities with While my Guitar Gently Weeps , but if you listen to the fade out on Harrison's masterpiece ( you might need headphones ), you'll hear the Zep/ Chicago riff there .White Album released Nov. 22 / 68
According to Wikipedia, “25 or 6 to 4” was recorded in August 1969. (“Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” was recorded in October 1968, BTW). So, Chicago’s recording was about 7 months after LZ’s release date.


 

varatrodder

Very well Known Member
Double Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2016
Messages
970
Reaction score
1,244
Twenty years ago I took copyright law in college. They couldn't answer these questions then, and they still can't answer them now. There doesn't seem to be much consistency.

Chuck Berry successfully sued the Beach Boys for "Surfin' USA" which is a rip off of "Sweet Little Sixteen".
Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr for using the riff from "I Want A New Drug" in the Ghostbusters theme song. They settled out of court.

But then we had plenty of examples where bands would use a nearly - if not - identical riff, and get away with it. I think it comes down to who has the better lawyers and money to sue.
 

Stickclick

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Messages
1,007
Reaction score
574
Location
Florida, USA
Music is so old, everything was already done by somebody. We just don't have sound recordings of music made before invention of the phonograph.
 

JimmySticks

DFO Veteran
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
2,850
Reaction score
3,559
Location
Queens NY
A lot of rock, and especially the blues, are basically three or four chord progressions, so with literally thousands of songs being written by hundreds of artists, I think there would be be some accidental plagiarism and songs sounding alike.

But of course there will be a few that intentionally plagiarized. Tough to figure out which is which however.
 

Houndog

DFO Master
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
5,730
Reaction score
6,180
Location
Oklahoma City
I don’t know how the blues artists do it .
Most of it sounds the same to me .
 

HoorayGuy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 10, 2018
Messages
279
Reaction score
251
Location
Indpls.
A lot of hypocrisy as well. You can sample someone's work and dub over it. That's ok.
 

pedro navahas

DFO Master
Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2009
Messages
3,382
Reaction score
621
When it comes to the blues I think everyone ripped off Robert Johnson, and Chuck Berry stole all his licks from Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
 

snappy

DFO Veteran
Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
May 14, 2017
Messages
1,714
Reaction score
1,793
I always thought Zep’s “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” and Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” shared an almost identical motif. The odd thing is that they came out at nearly the same time IIRC.

Beginning at 2:23:

Opening:
Though some have documented the release date which, perhaps, explains the similarities between the two songs-might have even been subconscious (not done on purpose).
For what it's worth, responding to how you said it was odd how they could be so similar,
let's for sake of argument consider maybe the two songs were conceived at about the same moment but they were released months apart.
This is what Michael Jackson once had to say regarding this phenomenon
I paraphrase:
"I have recorded ideas for songs that I haven't released and then heard them on Princes new record.
It's happened in the past so now I have to rush a song release/copyright before Prince takes it from out of the ether."
 
Last edited:

Matched Gripper

DFO Master
Joined
May 28, 2019
Messages
3,360
Reaction score
3,058
Though some have documented the release date which, perhaps, explains the similarities between the two songs-might have even been subconscious (not done on purpose).
For what it's worth, responding to how you said it was odd how they could be so similar,
let's for sake of argument consider maybe the two songs were conceived at about the same moment but they were released months apart.
This is what Michael Jackson once had to say regarding this phenomenon
I paraphrase:
"I have recorded ideas for songs that I haven't released and then heard them on Princes new record.
It's happened in the past so now I have to rush a song release/copyright before Prince takes it from out of the ether."
The walls have ears.
 


Top