Sunday, April 19, 2015

No "Blurred Lines" in Jury's Decision Finding Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams Liable for Copyright Infringement

The song “Blurred Lines” was undoubtedly one of the summer of 2013’s biggest hits. Nearly two years later, this song is still making headlines after a jury recently found singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams liable for copyright infringement.

In 2011, singer Marvin Gaye’s family filed suit alleging that “Blurred Lines” copied protected elements of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up.” Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’s attorneys argued that the similarities between the two songs were not substantial and that “Blurred Lines” was intended to evoke an era and to be emblematic of the disco genre.

Nevertheless, the jury awarded more than $7.3 million in damages to Gaye’s family; two of Gaye’s children received $4 million in damages and $3.3 million of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’s profits from the song. Rapper Clifford Harris, Jr., who is also known as T.I., was not found liable for copyright infringement. Recently, attorneys for Marvin Gaye’s family filed post-trial motions to stop sales of the song so that an agreement regarding future revenue sharing could be negotiated. At this time, it is unclear whether the parties will appeal this decision.

In light of this decision, some members of the music and legal communities are concerned as to the impact that this will have on future creative pursuits. Some musicians believe that this decision will chill creative expression as many musicians will avoid using common arrangements and eschew the tradition of borrowing from earlier works. While there are only so many ways in which chords and notes can be arranged in musical compositions, musicians still have the opportunity to utilize protected elements of other works by availing themselves of licensing processes to request permission to incorporate the elements into their works.