Entertainment & Arts

Dolly Parton defends Ed Sheeran, Led Zeppelin and others accused of theft

Dolly Parton
Image caption The country star says no-one intentionally copies another writers' song

Dolly Parton has spoken in defence of songwriters, after a spate of plagiarism cases against the likes of Led Zeppelin and Ed Sheeran.

"I don't believe that any of the people who get sued intentionally set out to do it," said the star, whose own hits include Jolene and Here You Come Again.

"I always worry about it so much when I write. You don't set out to try and steal anything, but it can happen."

However, she added, writers who do infringe copyright "should pay up".

Parton was herself at the centre of a copyright case in 1985. Husband and wife team Neil and Jan Goldberg sued her star for $1 million, saying she had copied their song Money World on the hit single 9 To 5.

The couple claimed they had given the song to Jane Fonda, who played it to her co-star in the movie of the same name.

A jury threw the claim out after just 35 minutes deliberation, deciding unanimously that there was "no similarity" between the two tracks.


There has been a noticeable increase in the number of plagiarism cases since 2013, when Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke were found guilty of copying Marvin Gaye's Got to Give It Up on the single Blurred Lines.

Ed Sheeran is currently fighting two copyright cases, over the songs Photograph and Thinking Out Loud; while Led Zeppelin recently won a case accusing them of using an obscure instrumental track as the basis for Stairway To Heaven.

Separately, Sam Smith gave Tom Petty a credit on his single Stay With Me, after similarities were pointed out between that song and Petty's I Won't Back Down.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It is 50 years since Dolly Parton first entered the US charts, with the song Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby

Speaking to the BBC, Parton agreed with this practice. "You should at least give them the credit if it is that close," she said.

But she stressed that songwriters can't help but be influenced by the things around them.

"Especially in music, because there's so much of it. If you write all the time, you're going to collect those things and not know it.

"I'm always horrified of that. If something sounds familiar, I think, 'Oh my goodness, what is that?' Then I'll track it down and, in my case, it's usually just one of my own songs!"

The country legend has just released a new album, Pure & Simple, which is accompanied by a recording of her performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2014.

She said the performance was "one of my greatest memories" and a "highlight of my career".

  • A full interview with Dolly Parton will be published on the BBC News Website on Saturday 20 August.

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