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Music World Shaken by ‘Blurred Lines’ Trial Ruling

EURweb Logo*Tuesday’s ruling surrounding the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines” has sent waves around the music industry that is still processing how much of an impact this will have down the road.

The decision, which was made by a federal jury, was a victory for the family of the late Marvin Gaye, who argued that “Blurred Lines” copied Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” As a result, Thicke and “Blurred Lines” producer Pharrell Williams have to pay nearly $7.4 million in unpaid licensing fees as well as good bit of the song’s profits. Although Thicke and Williams caught the brunt of the judgment, the other artist featured on “Blurred Lines,” rapper T.I., was absolved and won’t have to pay anything to the Gaye family.

With the longstanding practice of artists and producers drawing inspiration and as the Los Angeles Times put it, “sometimes more” from past music, the verdict reached in the “Blurred Lines” trial could be felt throughout the music industry.

The case joins a recent situation involving Sam Smith, who agreed earlier this year to share royalties from his hit song “Stay With Me” after comparisons were made to the classic Tom Petty song “I Won’t Back Down”

For Gregory Butler, the jury’s decision came off as a stunning outcome for a case that made music industry folks take notice.

“You’ve made it illegal to reference previous material,” the Los Angeles composer and producer told the Times. “I’m never going to come up with something so radically different that it doesn’t contain references to something else.”

While the verdict did stun people, entertainment law attorney Joe Escalante, expressed concern over emotion being catalyst for the jury’s decision instead of what’s protected under copyright law.

“This may put a smile on the Gaye family’s face, but it’s a dark day for creativity, and in the end, this will be a net loss for music fans,” he mentioned to the Times. “Good news for lawyers and the bitter everywhere.”

As with all decision, reactions were mixed. A veteran music industry executive, who asked not to be identified since he might with people involved in the “Blurred Lines” case in the future, mentioned that musicians do value protecting creative work. Nevertheless, the exec stated that borderline copying from inspired people was becoming too common nowadays.

“Somebody should be protecting that,” the executive voiced to the Times. “If it has a chilling effect on copyright infringement, that should happen…. Stopping theft is what we’re talking about.”

In commenting on the verdict, Richard Busch, the Gaye family’s attorney, said the case wasn’t about inspiration or the music business. Instead he pointed out that it was about the copying of one song.

“While Mr. Williams’ lawyer suggested in his closing argument that the world would come to an end and music would cease to exist if they were found liable, I still see the sun shining, I still see the wind blowing,” said Busch, who added that he would request a court injunction to stop further sales of “Blurred Lines.”

The Times noted that the move could possibly open negotiations regarding profits made from the song going forward.

Since the verdict was announced, Williams, Thicke and T.I. released a statement saying “Blurred Lines” was an original creation and they were exploring legal options following the verdict. In their eyes, the jury’s decision “sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.”

For more on the Times’ analysis of the “Blurred Lines” trial verdict, click here.

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