The original verdict in the copyright case between Pharell Williams, Robin Thicke and the family of Marvin Gaye has been upheld, giving more meaning to one of the most music important copyright cases in history.
NBC News reports the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Thicke and Williams’ appeal in the 2013 copyright infringement case which claimed their hit “Blurred Lines” mimicked Gaye’s 1977 song, “Got to Give It Up.” Some changes made to the ruling the decrease of damages to the Gaye estate. The family will receive a payout of $5.3 million and half of the royalties for the song. T.I. was also removed from the case since the rapper was a “vicarious writer” who didn’t take part in the original creation of the song.
Unauthorized use of any element of a song leaves an artist at the mercy of another, whether posthumous or living. Referencing the work of someone or something as a catalyst for your next hit without a written agreement might now get you to a lawsuit sooner than it can to the top of the charts. The style of the songs also came into play, which will change the landscape of sampling in the music industry.
Dissenting judge, Jacqueline Nguyen argued in favor of the duo. “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,” she said. “Here, they don’t, and the verdict should be vacated.”
Nguyen criticized analysis of the two entities as only sheets of paper. She wrote, “…By refusing to compare the two works, the majority establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere.” The judge worried that the ruling would have a longterm and widespread effect on musicians with new music that shares a liking to a sample or inspiration from the past.
In 2016, a slew of artists backed an appeal letter that protested this case, stating that it would “blur a line,” so to speak, between inspiration and unlawful copying. They included Jennifer Hudson, John Oates of the legendary Hall & Oates and Linkin Park.
Gross profits of the song reportedly stand at $16,675,690 and $11 million in touring revenue.