Earlier this week, a federal jury in Los Angeles found that the 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” which earned more than $16 million dollars, had indeed copied elements from Marvin Gaye’s own 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” without permission. The eight-person jury awarded his family more than $7.3 million dollars.
According to The New York Times, though lawyers for “Blurred Lines” songwriters, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, argued that the similarity “was slight, and had more to do with an evocation of an era and a feeling than the mimicking of specific musical themes,” the jury disagreed, finding that the songwriters had committed copyright infringement, though that they “had not done so willfully.
Interestingly, the jury had to make a determination based on the sheet-music versions — “fundamental chords, melodies and lyrics” — and fragments of the songs, not the commercial recordings, per Judge John A. Kronstadt’s ruling, limiting the scope of the case.
Again according to The Times, after the ruling, some legal experts voiced concern about the legal precedent the ruling set. Intellectual property lawyer Lawrence Iser characterized it as “a bad result.” He continued:
“It will cause people who want to evoke the past to perhaps refrain from doing so. Rather than helping to progress the arts, it is a step backward.”
The Times similarly asserted, “Artists and music industry lawyers will likely face new constraints as they sort through the verdict and its implications.”