Snarky Lawsuits or How to Use Your Family Tree to Make Money

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It seems that the Led Zeppelin trial has been getting a lot of airtime lately. For those of you who must have grown up on another planet, (Do Aliens Exist? You might want to follow former Blink 182 member Tom DeLonge to find out for sure) it has been reported that the iconic guitar solo at the beginning of Stairway to Heaven has been stolen from another song written prior to 1969 (47 years ago for those of you who abhor math.)

Now, I’m not interested in the actual specifics of the trial, the lawyers can spend their time with that. What I am curious about is how the plaintiffs failed to notice any similarities for 47 years. Specifically, it would appear that the gentleman who wrote the song did not notice any similarities that were significant enough to file suit 47 years ago, as it is his estate that has filed the lawsuit.

If you have been to ANY middle school dance, high school prom, or guitar store in which budding 13-year-old guitarists are sampling the wares, you have heard Stairway to Heaven. I’m not an expert on music theory, although I understand that the similarities revolve around a missing E in the chord progression. What I do know is that there are only so many notes and chord progressions available, and it would seem to me that the odds of duplication in over 2000 years might be fairly strong.

If lawsuits can be filed for similarities, I have compiled a list to assist the relatives and/or estates of a few people who may want to file a lawsuit.

The family of Pachelbel (he wrote Cannon in D in 1694, and yes you have heard it) may want to pay attention here. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know), Canon in D was described by music producer Pete Waterman as “almost the godfather of pop music because we’ve all used that in our own ways for the past 30 years”.

The following songs are purported to be based on Pachelbel’s chord progressions:

I Should Be So Lucky- Kylie Minogue; All Together Now- The Farm; Go West- Pet Shop Boys; C U When U Get There- Coolio; Basket Case- Green Day; Don’t Look Back in Anger- Oasis; and Christmas Canon- Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I think you get the idea. I’m sure there are more but quite frankly, I’m tired of doing the research.

This got me thinking. There are only 26 letters in the English and Latin alphabet. That means that every book written since the English language was first written in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc runic alphabet, in use from the 5th century, has been a variation of those 26 letters. If you had Anglo Saxon relatives, you may want to put a law firm on retainer.

Why stop there? Do you have relatives from Mesopotamia? (Mesopotamia is the present-day area of parts of Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Iran) Do you remember studying cuneiform in 6th grade? Cuneiform is a system of writing first developed by the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia around 3500-3000 BC.  You may want an established law firm to take on that case; but hey, it’s worth a try.

How did all of those letters, words, musical notes, thoughts, melodies and ideas get spread? The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440. If you are a descendant, you can bet the farm that famous pieces of literature would not have reached any level of notoriety had we still been using the oral tradition to pass on information.

Let’s see, who else can jump on this snarly lawsuit bandwagon? Did you use electricity in any way while you were writing that song or book? Take note all you descendents of Edison. What kind of guitar did you use? The modern classical guitar is credited to Spanish guitar maker Antonio Torres circa 1850. Adolph Rickenbacker, George Beauchamp and Paul Barth (Bellis, n.d.) formed the Electro String Company and in 1931 produced their first Hawaiian guitars. Their success prompted Gibson and others to start producing electric guitars.

(Mary Bellis http://inventors.about.com/od/gstartinventions/a/guitar_2.htm)

What we can all learn from these snarky lawsuits is that there is money to be made, and notoriety to be had, if you have the skills needed to notice similarities. Go buy one of those “Can you spot the differences in these pictures” books and practice your compare and contrast skills or spend some time investigating your family tree and you might be able to file a snarky lawsuit as well. By the way, don’t quote me on any of this…my cousin is a lawyer.

 

 

 

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