Thursday, August 26, 2010
Dazed and Confused, 41 Years Later
This is one of the great mysteries of all time to music nerds and copyright lawyers (I am guilty of being both) – why did Jake Holmes wait so long (41 years!) to sue Jimmy Page for copyright infringement? Specifically, on June 28 of this year, Holmes sued James Patrick Page, Super Hype Publishing, Inc., Atlantic Records, and others for copyright infringement claiming that Led Zeppelin’s song “Dazed and Confused” infringed upon Holmes’ song of the same title. Of course it did. It is the same song. Jake Holmes’ song is on i-Tunes if you want to hear the evidence.
By now, most music fans have heard the story of how Jake Holmes’ band opened for the Yardbirds (Page’s former band) at a 1967 New York show. Impressed by the artist’s performance, Jimmy Page and Jim McCarty purchased a copy of Jake Holmes’ record The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes the next day. They soon worked the song “Dazed and Confused” into their act. Page debuted his famous violin bowed guitar during the middle of the song. In fact, The Yardbirds recorded a live version of the song as “I’m Confused.”
Why did Holmes wait this long to take action? Willie Dixon was on the case early, suing for “Whole Lotta Love” infringing “You Need Love.” See this link” for a list of Jimmy Page’s “influences.” By waiting 41 years to file suit, Holmes is barred by the statute of limitations from collecting damages for the first 38 years of the song’s existence. I am sure that one of Page’s defenses will be laches – the allegation that the plaintiff “slept on” his rights.
Perhaps an answer could be found in a quote I came across in an old issue of Shindig! Magazine. Holmes is quoted as saying that he became aware of the song:
“as soon as it came out, and stupidly, I never followed up on it. In the early 1980’s, I did write them a letter, and I said basically: I understand it’s a collaborative effort, but I think you should give me some credit at least and some remuneration, but they never contacted me.” ( I wonder if Page’s attorneys will sieze upon the phrase “ collaborative effort”. I would).
If this case does not settle, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.