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Pharrell, Robin Thicke Lose Summary Judgment Bid for “Blurred Lines”

California judge determines "Blurred Lines" may have legitimate similarities to Marvin Gaye song

A year and a half after Robin Thicke’s release of “Blurred Lines,” the song is still generating heaps of controversy. In what may easily become the most memorable copyright infringement lawsuit in recent memory, a judge in California has effectively handed Round One to the family of Marvin Gaye.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Court Judge John Kronstadt has denied the motion by Thicke (and fellow songwriter/producer Pharrell Williams) to render summary judgment that “Blurred Lines” did not steal material from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got To Give It Up.” According to the judge, the Gaye Family “have made a sufficient showing that elements of ‘Blurred Lines’ may be substantially similar to protected, original elements of ‘Got to Give It Up.'” This ruling does not automatically indicate a loss for Thicke and Williams, but it definitely opens the door for what may become an extended, widely publicized and heated trial.

In case you’re late to the party here, let’s try and break it down into simplest terms. Upon getting wind that the Marvin Gaye family was indicating infringement, Thicke and Williams filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against the Gaye estate, asking for a protective ruling from the courts that “Blurred Lines” had not violated any copyright laws. The Gaye family countersued, alleging that the song had, in fact, taken key material from “Got to Give It Up.” This has already led to much formal analysis of the two songs, and even a remarkable deposition by Thicke himself “admitting” that he actually had minimal participation in the writing of “Blurred Lines” because he was “high on Vicodin and alcohol,” effectively attempting to pin the lion’s share of responsibility on his producer, Pharrell. Between this bombshell and the video rants of Marvin Gaye III, this has all played out like something akin to a music-themed soap opera.

Today, the first ruling was handed down, which without incriminating Thicke and Williams, also refuses to offer them asylum from the courts. In other words, an infringement trial is now far more likely than it was a few months ago.

A victory for either side is far from assured, and there may be a long wait before we know more. Unless by some miracle an out-of-court settlement agreement is reached, the trial is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2015. But the courts may very well rule that “Blurred Lines” blurred its own line a little bit too much.


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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