According to Law360 and the Hollywood Reporter, on Tuesday, a jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams violated Marvin Gaye’s copyright it “Got to Give It Up” in their creation of the hit song, “Blurred Lines.” After more than a year of litigation, and two and a half days of jury deliberation, Thicke and Williams have been ordered to pay Gaye’s children $7.36 million. The jury decided to award $4 million to represent the amount that likely would have been paid for a valid license to “Got to Give It Up,” as well as a percentage of Thicke’s and William’s profits from “Blurred Lines” ($1.76 million and $1.6 million respectively). Interestingly, Universal Music Group, who has reaped the greatest profit from the song, was not held liable, nor was rapper T.I., who also performed the infringing song.
Ultimately, the defendants’ lawyer, Howard King, focused on the musical composition (the sheet music), as the Gaye’s sound recording was not subject to copyright protection at the time of its creation. King stressed the notable missing notes from the plaintiffs’ expert testimony regarding one allegedly similar riff, and noted that even Janis Gaye only brought the case after noting the similarity in the sound recordings. The defense argued that Gaye’s song was not copied, for as Williams stated, he only sought to replicate a “70s” feel with the track.
On the other hand, plaintiffs’ lawyer, Richard Busch, highlighted the ability of these performers to “charm” the jury and warned the latter not to be fooled. Thicke’s conflicting statements about the song’s authorship also weakened the image of the defendants. While most cases of this sort settle, with Gaye’s heirs victory, it is possible more copyright holders will seek to have their day in court.
*Note: While the case also involved Gaye’s “After the Dance,” the jury did not find Thicke liable for infringement with regards to this track.