Appeals court upholds ‘Blurred Lines’ copyright verdict

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams will still have to pay $5.3 million in damages after an appeals court upheld a decision on their song "Blurred Lines." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

March 22 (UPI) — Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams will still have to pay $5.3 million in damages after a federal appeals court upheld a jury’s decision that their song “Blurred Lines” — that also features rapper T.I. — infringes on the copyright of Marvin Gaye‘s “Got to Give It Up.”

The decision was made Wednesday by a divided panel at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that discussed the case’s ramifications and how the win for Gaye’s family might stifle musical creativity.

Thicke and Williams’ lawyers argued that the lawsuit went too far in protecting the generic elements of a song’s style shared between the two tracks, The New York Times reported.

The majority opinion from Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. rejected Thicke and Williams’ argument that “Got to Give It Up” is only entitled to thin protection and that the verdict would harm creativity. Judge Jacqueline Nguyen offered a dissenting opinion and criticized the trial judge’s decision to not allow the jury to hear the recordings.

“The majority allows the Gayes to accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style,” Nguyen wrote, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got to Give It Up’ are not objectively similar. 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.”

The appeals court ruling also cleared T.I., real name Clifford Harris Jr., and Interscope Records, of liability. The Gaye family was originally also awarded 50 percent of publishing revenue for “Blurred Lines” and will be able to get a running royalty rate of 50 percent.

Gaye’s three children Marvin III, Nona and Frankie called the decision “positive for writers.”

“We respect the court’s point of view, and do not believe it will ‘stifle creativity’, as has been suggested by some, but instead it will promote originality,” they said in a statement. “If an artist wants to use the work of others for ‘inspiration,’ they always have been welcome to ask for permission.”


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