On March 10, 2015, a federal jury of the Los Angeles Federal Court ruled that similarities existed between “Blurred Lines”, written by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, and Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up”, and Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay 7.4 million USD in damages to the family of Marvin Gaye for the infringement of their song on copyright of Gaye’s work and for its use without permission.
In October 2014, the judge concluded that Marvin Gaye’s copyrights were limited to the sheet music or a state copy of 1977, as prescribed by Library Law, and in fact, Gaye would not hold copyrights to the disputed musical recording. Thicke and Williams claimed that contents of the sheet music, protected by copyright, did not contain Gaye’s voice, backup vocals or the percussions therefore no copyright infringement was at stake. The jury has been deliberately prevented to hear Gaye’s recording of “Got to Give It Up” during the hearings in case it could sway the jurors. Instead, eight jurors were asked to compare the sheet music of “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up”, mainly the chords, melodies and lyrics. And yet, the jury concluded that the two songs were perceptibly similar.
Similarity between the two songs has been discussed for a long time and, in a 2013 GQ interview, Robin Thicke commented that Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” was one of his hit songs and told Pharrell that they should make that kind of song, and that they wrote the song in about a half-hour, even though he later on said he was under the influence of drugs during the interview, this defence did not earn Thicke and Pharrell any sympathy before the jury.
The Court, according to Billboard’s article, ordered Blurred Lines team to pay 4 million USD, Thicke to pay 1.6 million USD and Pharrell to pay 1.8 million USD, in total of 7.4 million USD in damages, to Gaye family for copyright infringement. Williams and Thicke are expected to appeal the decision.
Although the case has become one of the most spoken subjects of the IP and music industries, it is still unknown how it will be reflected on practice and how the lyric writers and musicians will be affected of said decision.
1 Tr.Bulanık. "Blurred Lines (feat. T.I. & Pharrell) - Single". Mart 26, 2013.