Image by Rolling Stone
Throughout history, there have been many different musical artists who used the songs of other artists as inspiration for their own songs. It has been done for as long as one can remember, and it is still being done today. However, there is a difference between using the work of other artists as inspiration to create an original work, and ripping-off other songs. According to Urban Dictionary, a rip-off can be defined as the act of stealing ideas or products to create something of lesser value and claim it as their own. In the past, there have been many artists who produced songs that were labelled as “rip-offs.” For example, Led Zeppelin was one of the most successful and influential rock bands during the 1970s but they were considered to be a very controversial band as well because many of their songs were deemed as “rip-offs”. This is emphasized in Kirby Ferguson’s video Everything is a Remix Part 1: The Song Remains the Same.
After listening to some of Led Zeppelin’s songs, it is clear that some of their songs are rip-offs of other songs. For example, the intro of Led Zeppelin’s hit song “The Stairway to Heaven,” which was released in 1971, was shockingly similar to Spirit’s “Taurus,” which was released 3 years prior. Through close examination of both songs, one can conclude that “Stairway to Heaven” is not a remix. The definition of a remix is to combine or edit existing materials to create something new. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” does not fit this definition because they did not modify their versions enough to call them original. Led Zeppelin did not recombine elements in a way that transformed it into a completely distinct song. The descending melody in the intro was almost the same as Spirit’s “Taurus,” except for a few notes and chords. The lyrics were different, but the underlying bass line and the rhythm were so similar to Spirit’s “Taurus,” that they do not seem to be two completely different songs. Another example of a song that Led Zeppelin ripped off was Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused.” The lyrics were recombined, but Led Zeppelin’s song had the exact same song title and the same riffs and melodies, so overall, it was basically a cover of the original song. These kinds of acts are big problems because they infringe the original work’s copyright to a large extent. They are not acts of fair dealing, which is when copyrighted material is used for educational or non-commercial purposes, but they are copyright infringements. The examples stated above are acts of copyright infringement because Led Zeppelin produced and sold work to the public using a substantial part of original work from other artists without their consent. Led Zeppelin did not give credit to the original artist, and claimed the song as their own, which also led to different legal disputes because Led Zeppelin made significantly more than the original artists. As a result of these legal disputes, many people today still debate on whether or not Led Zeppelin were actually rip-offs.
In conclusion, Led Zeppelin ripped-off of quite a few songs and violated copyright rules, which leads to the big question: how to avoid copyright infringement? In order to avoid copyright infringement, artists should first understand the copyright law. They should find out what the copyright law covers before attempting to use another artist’s song. Artists who used the work of other artists should give credit as necessary. They should be able to use elements of other songs and incorporate into their own pieces, but to ensure that the song is original, artists should only be able to transform small chunks of the song and not take the complete copy. They should make alterations that transform the song to create something new and distingushable from the original. Combining different melodies and rhythms, as well as adding the artist’s own style into the mix would also help to avoid copyright infringement. If Led Zeppelin had followed these sort of guidelines, they could have avoided all those legal disputes with various artists, which could’ve helped them have a better relationship with the public.
Brennan,Collin, Lior Phillips, Michael Roffman, Philip Cosores and Zach Schonfeld, Philip Cosores, Ryan Bray, CoS Staff, Philip Cosores and Collin Brennan, Justin Gerber, Len Comaratta, Zach Schonfeld and Lior Phillips, Collin Brennan and Joe Harris, Alex Young, and Nina Corcoran. “Rock History 101: The Truth about Led Zeppelin.”Consequence of Sound. Consequence of Sound, 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Edwards, Gavin. “Led Zeppelin’s 10 Boldest Rip-Offs.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 22 June 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
McGee, Bobby. “Rip-off.” Urban Dictionary. N.p., 3 June 2005. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
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