Robin Thicke Sues to Clear “Blurred Lines” from Copyright Claims

Originally posted 2013-08-19 12:42:36.

By Caroline Lau | amdlawgroup.com

robin thicke

Robin Thicke and co-writers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris of this summer’s pop anthem, “Blurred Lines”, filed a lawsuit on August 15 in response to accusations by Marvin Gaye’s family and Bridgepoint Music, Inc. that the hit copies from Gaye’s 1977 single “Got to Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s 1974 song “Sexy Ways”. Bridgepoint Music owns some of the copyright for Funkadelic’s music. The Gayes and Bridgepoint have threatened to sue if the artists do not pay a monetary settlement, so Thicke, Williams and Harris are seeking declaratory relief from a Californian US District Court that would protect their from the defendants’ claims.

Specifically, the lawsuit requests a declaration that “Blurred Lines” does not infringe either “Sexy Ways” or “Got to Give It Up”, and also that the Gaye family does not have a sufficient interest in the copyright of “Got to Give it Up” to make copyright claims. Bridgepoint had argued that “Blurred Lines” includes elements of “Sexy Ways” without its knowledge or consent, and is therefore infringing. The Gayes make the same argument, and according to the suit, claim that “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” “feel” or “sound” the same. However, the plaintiffs assert that “being reminiscent of a ‘sound’ is not copyright infringement” and “the intent in producing ‘Blurred Lines’ was to evoke an era. In reality, the Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work”.

The plaintiffs also add that the songs in question are “starkly different” to indicate there is no basis for charges of copyright violation, but the ordinary listener can discern similarities between “Got to Give It Up” and “Blurred Lines”. Yet the similarities seem to mostly stem from, as the plaintiffs have remarked, the 2013 composition drawing from the era of 70s funk and disco. Still, one can hear strong parallels between the two songs’ instrumentation, including the way the bass notes are played, and the percussion sounds and rhythm, although not so much in their melodies. Less can be said about how similar “Blurred Lines” is to “Sexy Ways”, except for again inspiration from a shared genre, and backup vocals and male falsettos heard in all three songs. 

Perhaps the Gaye family has a stronger case in terms of actual copying at least upon first listen, which may be why the plaintiffs are also attacking the Gayes’ standing to claim copyright, while Bridgepoint has legitimate copyright ownership but a weaker case for establishing substantial similarity to constitute copying, musically speaking. What can’t be overlooked is the immense popularity and success of “Blurred Lines”, which it may owe to its retro feel—but that could be to credit of the composers’ creativity and deference for artists before them, rather than any copying on their part. The lawsuit tries to convey this sentiment in its introduction: “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists.”

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Sources:

The Hollywood Reporter. (August 15, 2013). “Robin Thicke Sues to Protect ‘Blurred Lines’ from Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive).” Retrieved on August 17, 2013 from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/robin-thicke-sues-protect-blurred-607492

Image credit: http://foter.com/photo/robin-thicke-yahoo-music-1/

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