After a four-year legal battle, a federal appeals court has upheld a $5.3 million judgment against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their chart-topping hit “Blurred Lines.”
On Wednesday (March 20), the 9th Circuit Court Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor the Marvin Gaye Estate finding that Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” infringed on the copyright Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” reports Reuters. They also reversed a decision that had also placed liability to the rapper T.I., who appears on the song, and Interscope Records, which released it.
In the legal case, the family Gaye, who died in 1984, argued that “Got to Give It Up” was copied without permission and helped “Blurred Lines” become the biggest song 2013. However, attorneys for Thicke and Pharrel disagreed and worried that the Gaye estate's lawsuit suit would further stifle creativity for musicians and composers when it comes to creating a song's style and "feel."
In the opinion, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. shot down the notion that the verdict would harm creativity, and suggested that the case depended on the legal acumen lawyers: “Far from heralding the end musical creativity as we know it,” Judge Smith wrote, “our decision, even construed broadly, reads more accurately as a cautionary tale for future trial counsel wishing to maximize their odds success.”
However, in a dissent, Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen harshly criticized the decision as one that “allows the Gayes to accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style.”
"'Blurred Lines' and 'Got to Give It Up' are not objectively similar," she wrote. "They differ in melody, harmony and rhythm. Yet by refusing to compare the two works, the majority establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere."
Howard E. King, the lawyer for Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams, agreed with Judge Nguyen and believes that the decision will prevent creativity and keep artists locked in litigation forever over "musical styles."
But the attorney for the Gaye's estate, Richard S. Busch, called the decision “all positive for writers.”
"Despite the protests the Williams’ camp that the decision somehow stifles creativity, the opposite is true,” he said in a statement. He added that the ruling “encourages today’s writers to create original work that does not take advantage the success others while pawning it f as their own.”