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“Blurred Lines” Copyright Infringement Case Will Be a Long, Hard Fight

Reported by Kacie Whaley

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ fight against Marvin Gaye’s family regarding the 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” won’t be ending any time soon.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt denied Thicke and Williams a victory in their lawsuit against Gaye’s family and concluded that the song in question may be significantly similar to Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Thicke and Williams sued the legendary singer’s family in September 2013 after Gaye’s children, Nona, Frankie, and Marvin, threatened to take legal action over claims that “Blurred Lines”— performed by Thicke and produced and written by Williams— copied components of “Got to Give It Up.”   Thicke and Williams’ suit sought declaration that the song was non-infringing.  The Gaye’s then counter-sued, claiming that not only was “Blurred Lines” unlawfully drawn from their father’s song, but Thicke’s 2011 single “Love After War” had significant similarities to Gaye’s “After the Dance.”

After Judge Kronstadt considered similarities between the songs’ instrumental and vocal structures, as well as Thicke’s confession that he lied about co-writing the song in question, he concluded that the Gaye’s  “made a sufficient showing that elements of “Blurred Lines” may be substantially similar to protected, original elements of “Got to Give It Up.””

Although the judge recognized similarities, he affirmed that the copied elements of Gaye’s songs needed to be legally protected, and therefore, the Gaye’s “have failed to produce evidence that creates a genuine issue as to whether the copyrights in ‘Got to Give It Up’ and ‘After the Dance’ encompass material other than that reflected in the lead sheets deposited with the Copyright Office.”

The attorney for Thicke and company, Howard King, said that he and his team are confident about the upcoming trial to settling the case:

“The ruling is not surprising given the extraordinary difficulty in prevailing at the summary judgment stage, especially where each side offers conflicting opinions from multiple musicologists. Although our musicologist, Sandy Wilbur, correctly testified that there are no two consecutive notes in the two songs that have the same pitch, the same duration, and the same placement in the measure, the judge concluded that sufficient disagreement about other elements of the compositions warranted denial of the motion. We are gratified that the ruling significantly limits the issues going forward by finding that the Gayes cannot assert any infringement claim for elements not included in the sheet music deposited with the copyright office, which effectively eliminates 5 of their 8 claimed similarities. The jury will now decide this case on the merits, limited to what is in the written composition, without being influenced by the sound recordings. Since the compositions at issue are completely different, we remain confident of prevailing at trial.”

Richard Busch, the Gaye’s attorney, expressed his conviction of a future victory:

“We believe the evidence of copying of Marvin Gaye’s legendary work “Got to Give It Up” is overwhelming and now look forward to trying the case. We also disagree with Mr. King’s assessment that the Court ruled that there will be any limitation on what the jury considers at the trial, which involves a different analysis than what the Court analyzes on a motion for summary judgment.”

 

A trial to settle the dispute is set for February 10th, 2015.

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