*A federal appeals court on Wednesday (March 22) upheld a jury’s finding that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” infringed on the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”
US Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen strongly objected to the ruling, arguing that the Marvin Gaye Estate was able to “accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style.”
According to reports, the appeals court panel handed down a split decision which actually disagreed with comments from Nguyen, who wrote: “‘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.”
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“The Ninth Circuit panel voted 2-1 to retain the most recent verdict against Thicke and Williams, which sees them liable for $5.3m in damages.”
“Those damages, paid to the Gaye Estate, break down like this: $3,188,528 in actual damages, plus profits of $1,768,192 against Thicke and $357,631 against Williams (and More Water from Nazareth Publishing, which collects royalties on Williams’ behalf).”
The Gayes will also receive “a running royalty of 50% of future songwriter and publishing revenues from Blurred Lines.”
The appeals court did, however, clear Clifford “TI” Harris and Interscope Records of any infringement. Thicke, Williams, and Harris co-own the musical composition copyright in “Blurred Lines.”
“We have decided this case on narrow grounds,” U.S. Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith wrote, as you can read in the full ruling through here.
“The Gayes, no doubt, are pleased by this outcome. They shouldn’t be,” Judge Nguyen stated. “They own copyrights in many musical works, each of which (including “Got to Give It Up”) now potentially infringes the copyright of any famous song that preceded it… That is the consequence of the majority’s uncritical deference to music experts.”
Nguyen further added: “Admittedly, it can be very challenging for judges untrained in music to parse two pieces of sheet music for extrinsic similarity. But however difficult this exercise, we cannot simply defer to the conclusions of experts about the ultimate finding of substantial similarity.
“While experts are invaluable in identifying and explaining elements that appear in both works, judges must still decide whether, as a matter of law, these elements collectively support a finding of substantial similarity. Here, they don’t, and the verdict should be vacated.”
Star Trak and Interscope Records co-own the sound recording of “Blurred Lines,” while Universal Music Distribution manufactured and distributed it.