In a case involving the alleged copyright infringement of a 1977 Marvin Gaye song called “Got to Give It Up,” eight California jurors reached a decision on March 10 to award the Gaye family $7.4 million in damages. Singers Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams will pay the amount to the family due to similarities in their song “Blurred Lines,” a hit song from 2013. In the case, the defense side argued that artists need a wide berth during the creative process, and although the artists may have been inspired by Marvin Gaye, they did not copy key elements from the song. No statutory damages were awarded in the case.
The case set a precedent for copyright infringement because these types of cases rarely go to trial. Usually they are settled out of court. Before the case involving “Blurred Lines,” the highest settlement for a copyright infringement case involved Michael Bolton paying $4 million for infringement of The Isley Brothers’ song “Love Is a Wonderful Thing.” In the recent California case, Thicke attempted to show the similarities between other hit songs by singing hits from U2, the Beatles, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson.
The defense argued that the Gaye family did not have the right to sue because of rights only to the sheet music composition and not the audio recordings of the song. The plaintiff’s side brought in a musicologist to testify to the similarities between the two songs in lyrics, overall theme, hook, and keyboard and bass interplay.
The copyright law of the United States protects the works of different types of artists, including singers. Under this law, other artists must have the singer’s permission to use elements from their songs. In a lawsuit involving copyright infringement, individuals may be able to seek monetary damages, attorney’s fees and statutory damages, depending on the nature of the infringement.
Source: CNN, “‘Blurred Lines’ jury orders Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay $7.4 million,” Eriq Gardner, March 11, 2015