Aftermath of Robin Thicke’s copyright infringement

Posted by Kelsea Graham

The song Blurred Lines continues to cause controversy since its status as a “hit” in 2013. This time, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. sued Marvin Gaye’s family as a preemptive strike for copyright infringement. Thicke, Williams, and T.I.’s hit seems a bit familiar to Gaye’s 1977 hit, Got to Give It Up. And of course Gaye’s family counter-sued.

According to USA Today, Gaye’s family received $7.4 million from the jury’s unanimous decision.

Josh Chesterfield created a comparison between the two hit songs. What do you think?

Williams claims Miley Cyrus was his inspiration for Blurred Lines, according to his interview in The Guardian. In my personal opinion, Williams has a lot of integrity and pride in his music. I don’t think he intentionally “stole” Gaye’s work. Newer artists sample older works, otherwise the music industry would get stale.

But, whether Blurred Lines or Got to Give It Up merely sounded the same was not the issue in the court. In fact, it was irrelevant. The Gaye family owned copyright to the sheet music, but no rights to the recording. That explains why the jury was not permitted to hear to actual song, according to Keith Harris’s blog post.

Knowing that information, I’m not surprised songwriters accused of copyright infringement will do anything to avoid going to trial. Do you think this verdict will discourage other singers and songwriters from sampling or pulling inspiration from older songs?

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3 responses to “Aftermath of Robin Thicke’s copyright infringement

  1. Molly Lamoureux

    It was interesting to find out that Williams was inspired by Miley. Maybe I’m just sympathizing, but I really think it was an honest mistake that Blurred Lines sounds very similar to Gaye’s hit. I actually did some more research on my own, and watched the “Top 10 rip-offs” video on youtube. Quoting the video, “there are only so many chords out there.” I totally agree.

    So as far as your question goes, “Do you think this verdict will discourage other singers and songwriters from sampling or pulling inspiration from older songs?” I don’t think it will make any difference. I don’t think any self-respecting musician or musical group would intentionally copy a riff or beat. There really are “only so many chords out there,” and if today’s artists copy, it’s unintentional.

  2. I agree with Molly. I don’t think Williams purposefully copied Gaye’s song. Yes the beginning is somewhat similar, but past that point in the song, I don’t even really hear a lot of similarities. As you mention in this post, Williams seems to have a lot of pride in his music, and I think any artist that feels that way about his or her work would not intentionally copy anything from another artist.

  3. Molly, you have a great point. Just like there are so many remakes of old movies or movie interpretations of books, even musicians sample older songs in their own work. I think Williams is well-respected in the industry and pretty much every article I’ve read has sided with Blurred Lines.

    Lauren, I didn’t hear many similarities either. I think the issue was something with the actual sheet music, so if anything Gaye’s family was concerned about Blurred Lines using the same rhythm or notes.

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