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Jimmy Page is in; that Huffamoose guitarist...no

A case that merits deciding in court

Dear Hipster:

Well, lookee here now! Led Zeppelin — or at least the songwriting team of Plant and Page — on trial for plagiarism. Back when Marvin Gaye’s estate sued Robin Thicke, I tried to tell you this would happen, but you didn’t listen. Looks like it’s open season on copyright suits! I think it’s ironic that the heirs of dead musicians, who didn’t create the music in question, are suing to be compensated because they think it’s unfair that somebody else got rich off of music that they didn’t create. Obviously, I don’t think it’s fair for people’s children to profit in perpetuity from the parents’ accomplishments. Go out and invent something yourself, kiddos! But I guess that’s another debate. Either way, may I be the first to gloat, “I told you so?”

— Don, still in Kensington

Still not an expert in intellectual property here, and since, “Ask an Associate at a Local IP Firm” doesn’t have quite the same ring, I don’t foresee my imminent replacement.

While I think this case actually merits deciding in court (and then again in an appeals court where some sort of legal precedent can be set), because these things actually matter, the hipster in me can’t help but find the courtroom shenanigans side-splittingly hipster hilarious.

To wit:

  1. Rather than deny any similarities between “Stairway” and “Taurus,” the Zeppelin team opted for what amounts to a musicological punt straight to the 18th Century, pointing out that Bach used similar structures — which basically amounts to, “Bach wrote, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ way before it was cool,” which is itself basically calling J.S. Bach a hipster — rather than debate copyright.
  2. The plaintiff’s lawyers called upon “expert testimony” from Kevin Hanson to prove that there’s no way to tell the two songs apart. Zep’s lawyers retaliated by calling on “guitar expert,” Lawrence Ferrara, to argue the exact opposite. Now, if you’re anything like me, your first thought is, Who the $^[email protected] are those people? Well, Hanson played guitar for mid-’90s alt-rock band Huffamoose, a group even my hipsterest friends don’t remember; and Ferrara is an academic and classical guitarist who looks like Tony Shalhoub. To anyone out there who doesn’t find it achingly ironic that the integrity of rock’s most famous ballad rests at least partly on the words of two guys you couldn’t recognize on the street, well, I’m pulling your hipster card immediately. This is like the president of the United States wanting to move forward on peace talks in Syria but first he has to wait till the mayor of Stockton and a town clerk from Peoria, Illinois, have their say.
  3. In all the courtroom sketches from this trial, Jimmy Page doesn’t look worried about having to pay millions of dollars, or bothered by allegations that he is a music thief. He looks bored. Maybe it’s because the guy has been sued plenty, but it’s, like, “Hey, Jimmy Page, how do you feel about being sued for millions of dollars again?” and he’s, like, “Meh. Whatever. I’m over it. Too busy being a legend. Let’s go to Roscoe’s for an Obama special.” I can’t breathe right now that’s so hipster.
  4. Finally, jurors are being asked to consider similarities between music from Led Zeppelin IV and from Mary Poppins, which is a bit like trying to prove donuts infringe on bagels’ claim to toroidal bread. Do we really want to go down that rabbit hole?
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Dear Hipster:

Well, lookee here now! Led Zeppelin — or at least the songwriting team of Plant and Page — on trial for plagiarism. Back when Marvin Gaye’s estate sued Robin Thicke, I tried to tell you this would happen, but you didn’t listen. Looks like it’s open season on copyright suits! I think it’s ironic that the heirs of dead musicians, who didn’t create the music in question, are suing to be compensated because they think it’s unfair that somebody else got rich off of music that they didn’t create. Obviously, I don’t think it’s fair for people’s children to profit in perpetuity from the parents’ accomplishments. Go out and invent something yourself, kiddos! But I guess that’s another debate. Either way, may I be the first to gloat, “I told you so?”

— Don, still in Kensington

Still not an expert in intellectual property here, and since, “Ask an Associate at a Local IP Firm” doesn’t have quite the same ring, I don’t foresee my imminent replacement.

While I think this case actually merits deciding in court (and then again in an appeals court where some sort of legal precedent can be set), because these things actually matter, the hipster in me can’t help but find the courtroom shenanigans side-splittingly hipster hilarious.

To wit:

  1. Rather than deny any similarities between “Stairway” and “Taurus,” the Zeppelin team opted for what amounts to a musicological punt straight to the 18th Century, pointing out that Bach used similar structures — which basically amounts to, “Bach wrote, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ way before it was cool,” which is itself basically calling J.S. Bach a hipster — rather than debate copyright.
  2. The plaintiff’s lawyers called upon “expert testimony” from Kevin Hanson to prove that there’s no way to tell the two songs apart. Zep’s lawyers retaliated by calling on “guitar expert,” Lawrence Ferrara, to argue the exact opposite. Now, if you’re anything like me, your first thought is, Who the $^[email protected] are those people? Well, Hanson played guitar for mid-’90s alt-rock band Huffamoose, a group even my hipsterest friends don’t remember; and Ferrara is an academic and classical guitarist who looks like Tony Shalhoub. To anyone out there who doesn’t find it achingly ironic that the integrity of rock’s most famous ballad rests at least partly on the words of two guys you couldn’t recognize on the street, well, I’m pulling your hipster card immediately. This is like the president of the United States wanting to move forward on peace talks in Syria but first he has to wait till the mayor of Stockton and a town clerk from Peoria, Illinois, have their say.
  3. In all the courtroom sketches from this trial, Jimmy Page doesn’t look worried about having to pay millions of dollars, or bothered by allegations that he is a music thief. He looks bored. Maybe it’s because the guy has been sued plenty, but it’s, like, “Hey, Jimmy Page, how do you feel about being sued for millions of dollars again?” and he’s, like, “Meh. Whatever. I’m over it. Too busy being a legend. Let’s go to Roscoe’s for an Obama special.” I can’t breathe right now that’s so hipster.
  4. Finally, jurors are being asked to consider similarities between music from Led Zeppelin IV and from Mary Poppins, which is a bit like trying to prove donuts infringe on bagels’ claim to toroidal bread. Do we really want to go down that rabbit hole?
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