Marvin Gaye’s heirs have triumphed in their case against Robin Thicke and Pharrell on appeal. The appeal judge in the Ninth Circuit, Milan D. Smith Jr., has confirmed the Gaye family’s win against the two songwriters over “Blurred Lines.” He also says it sounds just like “Got to Give it Up.”
The Gayes won $5.3 million in the 2015 case. Thicke, Pharrell, and rapper T.I. were the original defendants. But Smith took T.I. out of the case because he wasn’t really involved.
Smith said: “Musical compositions are not confined to a narrow range of expression. We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Thicke Parties’ motion for a new trial.”
Smith disagreed with the dissenting judge’s opinion in favor of Thicke and Pharrell. He wrote:
“[T]he dissent prophesies that our decision will shake the foundations of copyright law, imperil the music industry, and stifle creativity,” he wrote. “It even suggests that the Gayes’ victory will come back to haunt them, as the Gayes’ musical compositions may now be found to infringe any number of famous songs preceding them. Respectfully,hese conjectures are unfounded hyperbole. Our decision does not grant license to copyright a musical style or ‘groove.’ Nor does it upset the balance Congress struck between the freedom of artistic expression, on the one hand, and copyright protection of the fruits of that expression, on the other hand. … Far from heralding the end of musical creativity as we know it, our decision, even construed broadly, reads more accurately as a cautionary tale for future trial counsel wishing to maximize their odds of success.”
A lot of famous songwriters I know don’t like the “Blurred Lines” case because they think it will put a chill on composing and make it too easy for their songs to be contested. But I disagree. Really original music cannot be challenged. It’s only when a lay person like you or me can hear the similarities. Every time “Blurred Lines” commences on the radio, I think it’s “Got to Give it Up.” And that’s what did Thicke in. As for Pharrell, who knows what happened? He’s written so many great songs, this case is a weird one.
Good for the Gayes.