Copyright Law

Some lawyers see blurred lines in 'Blurred Lines' copyright verdict

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A $7.4 million verdict on behalf of singer Marvin Gaye’s family on Tuesday in the “Blurred Lines” copyright suit has clouded the line between paying homage and infringement, critics say.

At issue in the suit was whether the “Blurred Lines” hit song by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke infringed Gaye’s copyright in his 1977 song, “Got to Give It Up.” The verdict—for $4 million in copyright damages and $3.3 million in profits attributable to infringement—was believed to be one of the largest damages awards in a music copyright case, report the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter. Jurors did not find the infringement was willful.

Lawyers for Thicke and Williams had argued the song, which was a hit in 2013, was inspired by the feel of Gaye’s music, but did not copy elements of “Got to Give It Up.”

Intellectual property lawyer Glen Rothstein told the Associated Press that, before the verdict on Tuesday, paying homage to musical influences was acceptable and even commonplace. “Today’s successful verdict, with the odds more than stacked against the Marvin Gaye estate, could redefine what copyright infringement means for recording artists,” he said.

“After today, doubt has been cast on where the line will be drawn for copyright infringement purposes,” Reynolds added.

His comments were echoed by intellectual property lawyer Larry Iser. The verdict has unfortunately “blurred the lines between protectable elements of a musical composition and the unprotectable musical style or groove exemplified by Marvin Gaye,” he said.

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