By Robyn Collins
Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and T.I. (real name Clifford Harris Jr.) are appealing the court verdict that their mega hit “Blurred Lines” plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up,” reports The Hollywood Reporter.
The three performers are seeking to overturn the ruling that awarded $5.3 million in damages to Marvin Gaye’s family as well as 50-percent of royalties from “Blurred Lines,” according to a brief filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A Los Angeles jury had ruled that “Blurred Lines” ripped off Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit,”Got To Give It Up,” a verdict that attorneys for Williams, Thicke and T.I. claim is erroneous and dangerous for the music industry. This outcome created international press coverage and widespread expressions of concern by members of the music community that, if left to stand, the “Blurred Lines” verdict would chill musical creativity and inhibit the process by which later artists draw inspiration from earlier artists to create new popular music,” the legal brief states.
There has been a series of recent copyright lawsuits, including a recent one against Ed Sheeran over a different Marvin Gaye song, reports Rolling Stone. Ariana Grade and Demi Lovato have also been sued for similar issues.
Sound recordings were not originally covered under federal law. As Rolling Stone reports, the original Copyright Act of 1909 based copyrights strictly on sheet music alone. The 1976 Copyright Act expanded to include sound recordings. The “Blurred Lines” writers assert that when the judge examined the two songs before the trial he should have determined that the songs were different had he judged them by their sheet music.
“What happened instead was a cascade of legal errors warranting this Court’s reversal for a new trial,” the brief for appeal states. “At summary judgment, the district court entertained expert testimony by musicologists for the Gayes who based their opinions entirely on the sound recording, not the deposit copy. The court correctly filtered out non-deposit-copy and generic musical features from their testimony, but then erroneously failed to compare what remained to ‘Blurred Lines.'”
“At trial, the district court made things worse,” the brief continues. “While correctly excluding the ‘Got to Give it Up’ sound recording itself, the court erroneously allowed the Gayes’ experts to testify about the sound recording anyway, including by playing their own musical excerpts based on the sound recording. The court then instructed the jury that it could consider all this testimony in its substantial-similarity analysis, failing to instruct them to consider only the protectable elements of the copyrighted work and indeed pointing them explicitly to elements omitted from the deposit copy.”
The brief also cites the recent outcome in Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” case, which ruled in favor of the band.
“For all these reasons, the judgment below should be reversed, or at a minimum, vacated and remanded for new trial,” the brief states.