Copyright Infringement Costs Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams $7 Million

By Joseph Mandour on March 12, 2015

music-sheetLos Angeles – Robin Thicke’s biggest hit song to date has now cost him and co-writer Pharrell Williams over $7 million. The children of 70’s musician Marvin Gaye noticed similarities between their father’s 1977 hit “Got to Give it Up” and Thicke’s 2013 release of “Blurred Lines.”

Fans of both Thicke and Gaye also noticed similarities, as well as reviewers and other listeners. This Youtube sample attempts to show the likeness of the songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziz9HW2ZmmY

A federal court ruled on Tuesday that there were overwhelming similarities between the two songs, and Gaye’s children are to receive about $7.4 million.

When “Got to Give it Up” was first released, United States Copyright law did not allow an audio recording of music to be protected, but instead only the sheet music. In the court room, jurors were not allowed to listen to the audio recording of the hit song to sway their decisions. The jurors were only allowed to consider the sheet music as that was the only copyright protection recorded.

A musicologist brought to testify stated that the likenesses between the two songs includes a similar repeated theme as well as parallel bass and keyboard lines.

Interestingly, only Thicke and Williams are responsible for the payout. During the trial, Thicke went against his previous creative claims by stating that he did not aid in the writing of the song. Pharrell agreed by saying that he had written the song alone in 2012. The record company involved with the production of “Blurred Lines” is not responsible for any of the damages.

Thicke dug his own grave when his song was first released, as he told reporters he was “trying to be Marvin Gaye” when writing the song, and that he was heavily influenced by the soul legend. In court, Thicke brushed off most of his previous remarks by stating that he had made a lot of false statements in order to promote his song. Unfortunately for him, the jury did not agree with his approach.

Thicke and Pharrell’s lawyers claim that the jury’s decision will have a future negative impact on rising singers. They argued that many will be too afraid to develop their own creative side from the inspiration of other musicians, in fear of potential copyright violations.

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